memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘society’ Category

Polly and me

Polly is five, like me. I’m five too.

Polly is my friend.

We’re playing on the beach

A game with little stones and shells in the sand

Drawing a house for us to live in when we’re big.

Sometimes a wave comes in and takes the house away.

So we build it again: the shells are the roof and walls and the stones are the windows and the door.

Another wave comes up over the wet sand and drags our little house back down with it.

I kiss Polly.

Later as mum is putting me to bed she reads me a story … and the prince and princess got married and lived happily ever after.

And I’m going to marry Polly I whisper as I drift into warm sleep.

 ***

She stood at the kitchen sink, staring out at the back garden with unseeing eyes; she automatically folded and refolded the damp cloth before eventually hanging it up in its usual place on the oven-rail. Angie, her friend and neighbour, was sitting at the kitchen table, smoking nervously and biting her nails. Neither women spoke. The situation was just too sad, too tragic – the only thing one could say about the accident was that Robbie hadn’t suffered much and people did say that after the funeral, clasping the cliché and hoping that it would comfort her. Angie broke the silence:

–          How are the children bearing up, Pol? Here, sit down and have a glass of wine; they’ve all gone now and your sister-in-law is with the two kids. You’ve got to slow down, you haven’t stopped all day … don’t beat yourself up about all this, it’s not your fault you know.

–          Chloe is being very adult about it all but poor little Josh doesn’t really understand what’s going on. I should be feeling grief or anger or something but I don’t feel anything, just numb. You do realize that we were going to separate, don’t you? The papers didn’t mention that, did they? Only the Other Woman.

TABLOID HEADLINES

Polly closed her eyes; most of the papers had run the story, the broad-sheets with a discreet paragraph on page two: PROMINENT MERCHANT BANKER IN CAR CRASH or SIR ROBERT MACKENSIE IN FATAL ACCIDENT, but the tabloids went to town on the front page WHO WAS BANKER’S BIRD or CRASH MYSTERY WOMAN!

–          Look Pol the funeral’s over, the guests have all gone and you’ve given Immaculada and Magda the rest of the weekend off. Everything went as well as could be expected and now you’ve just got to try and relax …

(The front door bell goes).

–          I wonder who that is; I thought all the Press had gone, oh of course Magda’s not here, I’ll go.

PORTRAIT OF POLLY - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

PORTRAIT OF POLLY – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

I hadn’t exactly forgotten Polly, far from it but we’d drifted apart in our teens. Her family moved away to a more expensive part of the city and she went to a posh boarding-school while I slogged on at the local comprehensive, and so we never saw each other again.

I heard about her from to time to time. After university she drifted from job to job before writing a best-selling cook-book, so I couldn’t avoid seeing her glamorous face on the cover – in fact I bought a copy in Waterstones.

(The recipes were not really to my taste, being a fussy reworking of traditional dishes in the Nouvelle Cuisine style).

Marriage to a highly successful business man put her completely out of my reach. The years went by and I pursued rather unenthusiastically my career as a teacher, eventually becoming the assistant headmaster of a school in the suburbs. I married another teacher but it didn’t work out and after about a year we parted, amicably enough.

There was no passion in my life.

I was loveless, childless and middle-aged.

Thus it was until last week when I read in the newspapers all about the death in a car crash of Polly’s husband. The effect on me was surprising. I was inordinately stirred and moved with empathy for my childhood friend. After brooding about it for several days, I decided to travel by the underground to her Chelsea address which was splashed all over the papers. The imposing house was in a discreet street just off the King’s Road. I loitered outside her door, dithering and wondering if she was there and what on earth I would say to her. I noticed some press photographers on the side of the road and beat a retreat with beating heart and eventually returned crestfallen to my home in south London. That was yesterday.

Now today I’ve come back again and plucking my courage, I climb up the steps and firmly press the bell. I hear steps crossing the hall (probably a maid, I think, or one her children) and the door swings open – it’s her. A neat stylish woman (but with the story of the last months written across her beautiful face) is standing there looking at me enquiringly:

–          Please excuse this intrusion on your grief, Lady Mackensie. I’m sure that you don’t recognize me but we used play together when we were children living in Hastings

–          I’m sorry I can’t quite place you … oh yes of course I remember, we used to play on the beach together?

–          Yes, I’m glad you’ve remembered; it makes it less embarrassing for me.

–          Won’t you come in for drink, we’re in the kitchen.

–           No, I won’t bother you any further now, but maybe we could go out some time next week or something?

–          Yes OK, I’d like that.

Polly returns to the kitchen.

–          Who on earth was that?

–          Oh just a ghost from the past; we used to build sand-castles together when we were kids. We agreed to go out for a drink, sometime next week.

–          Surely you’re not going!

–          Why not. It’ll take my mind off all documents I’ve got to sign; besides he looked rather attractive in a pathetic helpless sort of way. There’s only one problem, though.

–          What’s that?

–          I can’t remember his name!

Opiate of the People

Towards the end of the 19th century (earth-time) a German Jew called Karl Marx, a political philosopher who was living in London, wrote Das Kapital which was to become one of the foundation stones of Communism. In this book which was basically an attack on Capitalism, one of the many quotable aphorisms is: Religion is the opiate of the People.

KARL MARX

KARL MARX

Now at the beginning of the 21st century might we suggest one changes this to: Football is the opiate of the People.

Football, in case anyone reading this is from another System in the Galaxy , is a game where twenty two grown men are paid mind-bogglingly huge sums of money to kick a ball around a field for ninety of their earth minutes.

I know, I know … go figure, there’s no accounting for taste, is there? But you will really fall out of your chairs when I inform your Excellencies that this, often unedifying spectacle of testosterone fuelled louts throwing tantrums when they lose, can be watched by up to a billion natives of this planet.

This inspection team is nearing completion of its assignment (there are just a couple of belief-systems we need to look at again in the eastern part of the planet) then we’re done here.

NASA-may-cut-planet-exploration-missions

Our recommendation is that the classification of this world should be downgraded

from C (promising) to C- (disappointing).

The end of the world

END OF THE WORLD

21. 12. 2012

For all seven billion plus of us

It’s a win-win situation

 

A win because the magic number

Zero, three ones and four twos

Is predicated on an erroneous

Dating system

The Christian calendar.

(They made a mistake)

 

And also a win because I have

 Something to say to all

The faithful and the faithless

The hopeful and the hopeless

Old and young and in between

Rich and poor and in between

Black and white and in between

Good and bad and in between

 

we who dwell in the slums of

Great cities

Green mansions

Country pastures

Wet Forests

Dry bush

Frozen tundra

Searing deserts

Flooded deltas

And the islands

 Those thousand islands

This quote is for all of us:

 

This is how the world ends

This is how the world ends

This is how the world ends

Not with a bang but with a whimper

T. S. Eliot – «The Hollow Men»

Death on the roads

mortality_Portugal

The statistics of deaths caused by road accidents in Portugal are heart-wrenchingly high.

A bad year will have about 2000 people losing their lives (needlessly) on the roads of this country.

(That’s more than the combined NATO forces’ annual mortality rate in Afghanistan).

Time to get real

While the agents of these accidents are largely men

The victims are mixed,

Women, old people and children.

So if you are planning to drive this Xmas please

SLOW DOWN

to avoid occasions like this:

FUNERAL

FUNERAL

Nostalgia

Autumn has rolled round again

I used to love this season

The fall of the golden leaves

The smell of roasting chestnuts at the corner of

Santa Catarina and 31 Janeiro

Walks in the park with the soft sun-beams

Filtering through the trees.

 

Time to get back to work

After the stress and sloth of summer.

It was the season of renewal

Academic years began

New jobs were started

New projects were initiated

New challenges to face

New meat to be trained up

Ruffled feathers to be smoothed in the staff-room

And on Saint Martin’s Day we would gather together

To eat roast chestnuts and drink the new wine.

 

Things would happen in autumn,

That season of sweet melancholy.

 

(By the way have you noticed that not even Nostalgia is what it used to be?)

The Village Idiot

My brother and I like trading etymologies.

Glamour comes from grammar;

Silly from holy 

He always held that the word idiot originally meant non-conformist. I thought before going further with that one I should check it out on good old Wiki and sure enough learn that the word idiot does indeed come from the ancient Greek idiotes, which refers to a person disinterested in participating in democracy and public life.

Such people were viewed as selfish, contemptible and stupid as they were more concerned with their daily personal affairs than they were of the good of the society.

Later in the middle-ages the word took on additional connotations associated with being stupid or mentally incapable.

 

 

Mark Twain.  Suppose you were an idiot.

And suppose you were a member of Congress.

But I repeat myself.

Blackadder and Baldrick

Baldrick: I nearly won the village-idiot-of-Wimbledon contest but I was disqualified at the last minute.

Blackadder: Really? What happened?

Baldrick: I showed up

Me: I won the village-idiot-of-Maceda contest.

Babel (1)

INSPECTION – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

We are pleased to report to this Council that, on the planet under inspection, at the height of their Christian Era (some nineteen centuries after the birth of the prophet Jesus) their Inspired Scripture, (The Holy Bible) had been translated into most of myriad languages of that world.

Thus, for example, right at the beginning of the Scripture in the first Book (Genesis 11:1-9) all the after-mentioned languages (see list) would be able to enjoy the charming, quaint etiological conceit to explain the need for above-mentioned translation:

Everyone on earth spoke the same language. As people migrated from the east, they settled in the land of Shinar. People there sought to make bricks and build a city and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for themselves, so that they not be scattered over the world. God came down to look at the city and tower, and remarked that as one people with one language, nothing that they sought would be out of their reach. God went down and confounded their speech, so that they could not understand each another, and scattered them over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Thus the city was called Babel.

List of languages into which The Holy Bible was translated – circa 1860

I. MONOSYLLABIC

Chinese, Burmese, Arakanese or Rukheng, Peguese, Talain or Mon, Siamese, Laos or Law, Cambojan, Anamite, Karen, Munipoora, Khassee, Tibetan, Lepcha.

II. SHEMITIC

Hebrew (Old Test.), Hebrew (New Test.), Samaritan, Chaldee, Syriac, Syro-Chaldaic, Modern Syriac, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic, Maltese, Mogrebin or W Arabic, Carshun, Ethiopic, Tigré, Amharic.

III. INDO-EUROPEAN

Medo-Persian Family

Persian, Judeo-Persian, Pushtoo or Affgan, Beloochee, Ancient Armenian, Modern Armenian, Ararat-Armenian, Kurdish, Armeno, Hakari and Ossitinian.

Sanscrit Family

Sanscrit, Pali, Hindustani or Urdu, Hinduwee, Bruj or Brij-bhasa, Canoj or Canyacubja, Kousulu or Koshala, Bhojepoora, Hurriana, Bundelcundee, Harrotee, Oojein or Oujjuyuneee, Oodeypoora, Marwar, Juyapoora, Shekawutty, Bikaneera, Buttaneer, Bengalee, Magadha, Tirhitiya or Mithili, Assamese, Uriya or Oriss, Cutchee or Cachee, Sindhee, Moultan, Wuch or Ooch, Punjabee or Sikh, Dogura or Jumboo, Cashmerian, Nepalese or Kaspoora, Palpa, Kumaon, Gurwhal or Schreenagur, Gujerattee, Mahratta, Kunkuna, Rommany or Gipsy, Tamul or Tamil, Telinga or Teloogoo, Karnata or Canarese, Tulu, Malayalim, Cingalese, Maldivian,

Celtic Family

Welsh, Gaelic, Irish, Manks, Cornish, Breton or Armorican.

Tuetonic Family

Gothic, Alemannic or Old High German, German, Jewish-German, Judeo-Polish, Old Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, English, Flemish, Dutch, Surinam Negro English, Creolese, Norse or Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Faroese.

Greco-Latin Family

Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indo-Portuguese, Italian, Daco-Romana or Wallachian, Provençal or Romaunt, Vaudois, Piedmontese, Romanese or Romansch,  Upper and Lower Enghadine, Catalan, Judeo-Spanish, Curaçao, Dialect of Toulouse.

Thraco-Illyrian Family

Albanian

Slavonic Family

Slavonic, Russ, Polish, Bohemian, Servian, Croation or Dalmation-Servian, Carniolan, Bosnian, Slovakian, Bulgarian, Wendish-Upper, Wendish-Lower, Wendish Hungarian, Lettish or Livonian, Lithuanian, Samogitian.

IV. UGRO-TARTARIAN

Euskarrian Family

French Basque, Spanish Basque or Escuria.

Finnish Family

Finnish Proper, Lapponese, Quänian or Norwegian Laplandish, Hungarian, Karelian, Olonetzian, Dorpat Esthonian, Revel Esthonian, Tscheremission, Mordvivian or Morduin, Zirian or Sirenian, Wogulian, Ostiacan or Ostjakian, Wotagrian or Wotjakrian.

Tungusian Family

Mantchou, Tungusian Proper.

Mongolian Family

Mongolian Proper, Calmuc, Buriat.

Turkish Family

Turkish, Karass or Turkish Tartar, Orenburg-Tartar, Karait-Tartar, Tschuwaschian, Trans-Caucasian Tartar.

Caucasian Family

Georgian.

Samoiede Family

Samoiede.

Dialects of the Islands of Eastern Asia, and of Corea

Japanese, Loochooan, Alentian, Corean.

V. POLYNESIAN OR MALAYAN

Malayan, Low Malay, Formosan, Javanese, Dajak, Bima, Batta, Bugis, Macassar, Hawaiian, Tahitian, Rarotongan, Marquesan, Tongan, New Zealand or Maori, Malaguese, Samoan, Feejeean, Aneiteum, Lifu, Nengoné, Australian.

VII. AFRICAN

Coptic, Sahidic, Bashmuric, Berber, Ghadimsi, Mandigo, Jalloof, Susoo, Bullom, Sherbro-Bullum, Yarriba or Yoruba, Haussa, Timmanee, Bassa, Grebo, Accra, Fantee, Ashanti or Odjii, Dualla, Isubu, Fernandian , Impogwe, Sechuana, Sisuta, Caffre, Zulu, Namaqua, Galla, Kisuaheli, Kimbamba, Kinika.

VIII. AMERICAN

Esquimaux, Greenlandish, Virginian, Massachuchusett Indian, Mohegan, Delaware, Cree, Chippeway, Ojibway, Ottawa, Pottawattomie, Micmac, Abenaqui, Shawanoe, Mohawk, Seneca, Cherokee, Chocktaw, Dacota or Sioux, Iowa, Pawnee, Mexican, Otomi, Terasco, Mistico, Zapoteca, Mayan, Mosquito, Peruvian or Quichua, Aimara, Guarani, Brazilian, Karif or Carib, Arawack.

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