Audio, Blogley, Random, Writing and Books

227 – A Room With a View

I’m writing this post sitting in the bedroom I had when I was 16. Remembering the days I spent here gazing out of the window before I ever got drunk, smoked cigarettes, made love, had long hair, or grew a moustache. Before I knew anything about life.

I returned to the UK last Friday to help my parents move house and to collect my things – a seventeenth century oak chest, some books, some photos, and a guitar. I’m not returning to the country permanently, just visiting with the option of an extended stay if I fancy it. Although judging by the clogged up roads and angry looks I keep getting from people who look like they live off Pot Noodles, I suspect I might be jumping on a train back to the continent soon.

I’ve been meaning to write a blog since I returned, but have struggled to conjure up the necessary enthusiasm to put pen to paper. Being here though in the old house has generated ideas. Mainly the memories of sitting here as a blank faced sixteen year old looking out over the busy A619 that runs over the Pennines to Manchester. Remembering the cement lorries that clattered hourly along the road from the nearby quarries to build new Barrett houses in Sheffield. The buses carrying pensioners from the Dales into the city for a day out at the bingo hall. The peace and stillness of the nights when the road was empty and everybody was in bed.

Twenty five years is a long time. But I can still remember what I was wearing on that first day here. A pair of cords and a checked shirt. I know this because it’s the same as I’m wearing now. Not the same ones of course, that would be pushing it a bit, even for me. But a 32/32 pair of corduroys and a medium green checked shirt has been my standard issue attire since I discovered Burton menswear in Chesterfield town centre when I was 14.

As for possessions, I like the fact that I only have some books, some photos and a guitar. It sums up the sort of person I am. My favourite novels are the ones where nothing really happens. My favourite photos the ones where the people look dead. My favourite music the type that makes my heart beat faster than running up a steep hill.

There’s the temptation I admit to simply dump the lot into the canal and to walk out of the house with nothing. What would I actually miss? I rarely look at the photos, the books have all been read, my guitar is rarely played these days.

I’m not going to discover new things if I keep hold of the old. A person only ever has what is in their head. Everything else is superfluous. And as I can’t escape what is in my head – bar chopping it off – perhaps I should do myself a favour and not burden it with further baggage like old photos of long dead relatives and books I’ve read three or four times before.

I revised for my A-levels in this room. For months and months, day upon day copying out equations and facts from text books onto index cards and then reciting the information back to myself in the vague hope that I might remember something. It didn’t really work as I ended up at Nottingham Poly studying pesticide science.

I actually wanted to be an actor. But something went horribly wrong in the decision making process while I was at school. I think they had a careers department, but they must have been out when I dropped by. Either that or I got the wrong door and went into the one that said A Life of Drudgery instead of Stardom.

I even found my university dissertation in the pile here. That classic read: ‘The effects of adjuvants on the efficacy of cyproconazole on powdery mildew’ by Philip J Ogley. I even used the initial of my middle name as though I was some kind of technoscience guru living in Laurel Canyon in California developing new cures for madness and arrogance.

I eventually got out of agronomy and formed a band with the very guitar I’m looking at now. I also did a spot of acting as well, including one line in an episode of Peak Practice. I had to say ‘Sorry’ to a doctor. I thought I was going to get further calls from the casting agent, but never did. I was gutted too because I thought I’d executed the ‘Sorry’ line with the perfect amount of weight and tone. Not too fawning, but not too confrontational either.

But that disappointment passed and since then I’ve done a lot and travelled a lot with the road inevitably leading back to the A619 on the edge of Chesterfield. And so here I am, Philip J Ogley (science guru/actor), sorting through my things in this room for the very last time.

 

(** If you want more ‘unofficial’ Blogley, you could always tune into Alexander Velkey’s highly acclaimed Doubtcast where there is an audio Blogley about the UK education system at about 1hr 06mins 23 seconds in. Although I do recommend listening to the entire Podcast to understand the context.)

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Audio, Places, Random

214 – Beer Cans: Recycling or Rubbish

(this audio blog first appeared in Alexander Velkey’s highly acclaimed Doubtcast on 10 March 2015 – see end of post for further details)

I live in a small cottage by the sea. I’m the caretaker for a holiday villa that caters for people who drive cars that look like chocolate bars. Smooth soft-topped motors designed for fast driving. No roof racks, baby seats, car stickers, tow bars, awkward edges or angles to spoil the view.

I do most of my chores in the morning, so that I have the afternoons off to write and drink beer. I drink a lot of beer, and as a result accumulate a lot of rubbish. Or is it recycling?

It’s good that I can recycle the mountain of cans I see on the floor each morning. Stick them in the recycling box. Out of sight, out of mind. Buy another crate. Get smashed.

I don’t feel too guilty about buying them because they’ve got a green swirly logo on the side that gives me the licence to buy as many as I want. It’s not technically rubbish, is it? It’s recycling. Great! Let’s buy more of it. Let’s get smashed.

Sometimes I use cardboard from cereal boxes as kindling for my woodburner and feel guilty when I do. I should be recycling it. But why? Doesn’t the lorry that take it all away use fuel and create carbon. Cause congestion and traffic accidents. And if I didn’t use the cardboard for kindling, I would only use more wood.

I buy my beer in 33cl cans because it limits my alcohol intake. I could buy the same beer in 5 litre home barrels that cost less and create less waste. But that would create problems. One, I would drink it all. And two, if I didn’t, it would go flat. And I can’t drink flat beer.

In short, the best way for me to save the environment is to drink less beer. Or buy it in bigger containers. But that’s not going to happen. I like the ritual of popping the can. That gratifying metallic snap the ring pull makes.

There’s nothing better is there? Something so precise and conclusive about the sound. Followed by that calm hiss as the beer gently fizzes up to the rim of the can. That is, unless you’ve just carried it back from the shop. Then it just fizzes all over the floor.

The 5 litre home barrel wouldn’t work for me. I’d drink it for starters. Plus the pure enjoyment of popping the can would be lost forever. So it’s something my environmental conscience will simply have to live with.

It’s lucky there’s recycling. Otherwise all my cans would simply become rubbish.

(Listen to the entire Doubtcast below)

Or visit website http://www.doubtist.com/2015/03/10/doubtcast-1-rubbish/ for further details.

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Audio, The French, Writing and Books

205 – Harold Kynaston-Snell May Have Saved My Life

‘At all costs his enthusiasm must not be checked and crushed by exceptions and irregularities. His interest must be kept and his ability encouraged.’

The above extract is taken from a 1933 book that belonged to my grandfather entitled First French Course for Seniors by Harold F. Kynaston-Snell.

I picked it up a few nights ago. I had nothing else to read and was intrigued by this blue faded hardback that I had been carrying around with me for years. A tribute to my long dead grandfather, who despite studying French for almost his whole life, could hardly speak a word.

I’ve taught and learned languages myself, so I’m very familiar with the books. And most of them start like this:

‘This English-For-U course book with its motivational and interactive approach will push students to new levels of excellence and brilliance ensuring top marks every time…’

Whereas Kynaston-Snell seems to be saying:

‘Look here old sport! You’re not going to learn this language in a week, or even a month. Take it from me. What I can do is give you this book. It contains everything you need to know. Read it once and then burn it. Good-O.’

While the English-For-U students lumber their way through twenty volumes of glossy text books filled with airbrushed pictures of celebrities asking questions like, Brad Pitt lives here. But where did he used to live?

Answer: Who cares.

I see Kynaston-Snell’s approach more along the lines of being taught how to swim.

‘You won’t be able to swim the channel just yet old sport. But neither will you drown. And at least you’ll be able to order a glass of champagne, buy a packet of cigarettes and talk about the weather.’

Which in 1933 was probably all you needed to know.

Kynaston-Snell produced a great little book with plenty of stylish black and white 1930s illustrations making the book feel more like an art galley prospectus than a language book. No film stars, no pictures of exotic islands and no photos of people sitting in dull meetings in grey offices pretending to look interested.

I struck a deal with myself this morning. This was it:

Whenever I feel weak. Whenever I feel like giving up. In any part of my life, not just learning French. This is what I will say:

‘My enthusiasm must not be checked and crushed by exceptions and irregularities.’

Thank you Harold Kynaston-Snell. You may have saved my life.

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Audio, Random

203 – The Pool

Cleaning the swimming pool here at the villa has become more than a mere menial chore. It’s become an obsession. Or more to the point, a war.

A war against the rotting Beech leaves that lie at the bottom like dead soldiers floating silently among the filamentous algae and strands of spirogyra.

It’s a natural pool that’s cleaned by a series of separate filtration beds containing lily, sedge, water hyacinth and lotus that purify the water. Like this.

pool-filtration-diagram

I remember going on package holidays as a kid to Benidorm and such places, lying in bed in the evenings furiously scratching my eyes out after a day swimming in the hotel pool that had been disinfected with biological weapon grade chlorine. Looking in the mirror in the morning to see a pair of eyes so bloodshot it looked like I’d been out all night snorting cocaine cut with asbestos.

This industrial level chlorination was probably necessary to stop the pool turning yellow from all the dumb English kids like me peeing into it after drinking four gallons of Coca-cola every lunchtime and dinner. And then later on in the evening when all the adults came back from the bars smashed out of their heads. Diving in for a midnight dip and while they were there pushing out a barrel or two of San Miguel into the lovely chemical broth that was their hotel pool.

There’s no problem of itchy eyes with this pool. Although if you pee in it, it goes yellow as there’s no chlorine or other chemicals to mask it. But that doesn’t happen here. This is Arcachon innit, not facking Benidorm!

swimming pool

The only drawback of this natural pool system is that it needs to be maintained properly. It shouldn’t need any maintenance at all in theory, being natural. But rarely does trying to replicate nature truly work. So like a garden, there’s always work to be done. Namely in the form of me, Philip ‘Oggers’ Ogley, removing leaves and algae.

This is what I use in my war:

 

None have been particularly effective. The Pool Robot has a mind of its own and simply stays underwater in the far corner sulking. The Underwater Hoover, while incredibly powerful (it’s German) tends to churn up the algae from the bottom the minute you turn it on, making it almost impossible to see what you’re doing. The Pool Net, while at first glance appears the most sensible option, is actually the most tedious. Especially when the tiny sodden leaves appear to swim away the minute I bring the net near them.

Yesterday however, after a long day, I thought I’d nailed it. Cleaned it of leaves. Rid it of algae once and for all. But alas, when I looked into it this morning, the bottom of the pool looked the same as the day I arrived. Filthy. Like a mattress in a brothel after a busy night.

I charged into the shed, woke up the Underwater Hoover, the Pool Robot and the Pool Net from their slumber and gave them a bollocking like they had never heard. So much so that the depressed Pool Robot even peed its pool nappy (as I call it) – it’s an underwater hoover bag that’s meant to collect all the leaves and algae off the bottom. But doesn’t.

I accepted their apologies and we got back to work. We have until the end of March to make it look as clear and as inviting as a freshly poured glass of vodka. The battle continues.

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