You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2014.

1. Nothing much to report. i finished my tax declaration (a relatively short but always hellish process) and am now grimly drinking tea and awaiting the inevitable demand. That’s right, tea – i have become a frightful tea snob and invested in a fascist teapot, here on display with my other toys:


2. The Jack Daniels, i should explain, is fudge; i wouldn’t drink Jack Daniels whisky, indeed i can’t. One of the problems of whisky is the generally close correlation between price and quality, and the difficulty of accepting rotgut once you’ve grown accustomed to the good stuff. My heaviest drinking days were in Kassel, when i was working so much i could only cope by being permanently drunk outside of work; i drank 8 € whiskies and even abominations like Korn (about 5 € a bottle, 40% alc), and they did the job. At that point, my favourite whisky was Jameson’s, a sign of an untutored & green palate, befitting my youth and inexperience. i had drunk some fine malts in my 20s but had no idea how to drink them and so they were more or less wasted. When i for some reason ventured into the attic of my father’s house in 1998, in the university summer holidays, i found a good two dozen bottles of Glenfiddich, port, cognacs, etc. – Christmas presents from patients – and since my father drank at most one can of Grolsch a year, he let me take them up to university with me. i can sadly report that the only one i made anything of was Taylor’s 10 year-old port, a real delight even then. The rest just went down the hatch and i decided i didn’t like whisky.

i was converted to Jameson’s in 2000 and this was perhaps the best introduction – a whiskey which requires no knowledge or skill in drinking; and so, the ideal mass consumer product. But it took a good decade more to move beyond the facile pleasures of Irish whiskey. Even in 2001, when i experimented with Lagavulin – something like 50% alcohol – i drank it without water, experiencing nothing but an alcohol-numbed tongue and near death by peat.

My malt-drinking days began i think a year or two ago, when i recalled a line from Charles McCarry’s Old Boys about the smell of Laphroaig, and felt moved to investigate. i found the vblog by Ralfy, a bothy-dwelling Scot, very useful for this wonderful new world:

3. Wonderful but also expensive. i calculated that i spend something like 100 € a month just on whisky, and tried to switch to my old 8 € Kassel glory, but after a good six months of Laphroaig, Ben Riach, Springbank, “George Washington” is abysmal and impossible. i’m not too perturbed to be spending over a thousand euros a year on whisky, as i spent easily that much on pipes, tobacco, and smoking paraphernalia in 2013, and on boots, shoes, coats, and sundry clothing in 2012. i seem to need to spend a certain amount to justify working, since merely being alive isn’t interesting enough (as though to breathe were life) for a life of waking early, 2 – 4 hours a day on trains & buses & the underground, and then entertaining, teaching, placating, humouring, dealing with many varieties of German. Perhaps i could claim this as a legitimate business expense.

4. i bought the teapot because i noted that i usually just want something warming in a cup and was drinking too much booze. It seems to have worked, though possibly i’m just drinking the same amount of whisky and also drinking lots of tea. i’m not too worried about the money, since i seem to have enough to manage, and even when work dries up & i get e.g. tax bills, it always works out, somehow. At least, i haven’t yet sunk to the near-homelessness i experienced twice in England, staying with friends because i couldn’t find work. This has been on my mind recently, as i’ve nearly finished my temp memoir, 4.5 (the years i spent in offices), and i can only favourably compare my situation in Germany with that in England. Frustrating as teaching can often be, it’s usually far better than data entry, and as long as i forego a pension & real health insurance i have more spending money.

i contemplated promoting 4.5 by writing some kind of “6 things i learnt as a temp” for Cracked, but gave up when i waded through their writers’ forums and decided i couldn’t be bothered. Maybe if anyone made any real money from writing, i would gird my writing loins, but nobody does, so i won’t. Thus far, from writing i have earned:

i. 500 pounds from an A-level TS Eliot study guide i did in 2000; the company didn’t use it, saying they disliked my “tone”, and it was besides a highly frustrating ordeal since the person who gave me the task replied to all queries (e.g. about word count, section formatting, JPEG size) with a blithe “Oh, who can say?” or “ha ha, ha, I don’t know!”.

ii. About minus 10 pounds for ‘Wake’, a short story i published in a magazine in 2004; minus, because i had to buy a train ticket to Leeds and then buy my own copy of the mag.

iii. About 20 quid for The Better Maker, because i sold about 20 copies and got 1 pound per, however i also bought at least 4 copies to give friends, and each cost me a tenner, so actually i lost 20 quid.

iv. About a fiver for Visitants, which sold about 5 copies, but again i bought copies for friends and lost about 30 quid.

v. Nothing for the translation i wrote of Kurt Maloo’s memoirs, published – with his title, against my advice – as The Captain of her Heart’s Log. It took 3 months of my life and i was supposed to get a percentage of royalties but have got nothing, so i imagine it hasn’t sold even a single copy.

vi. Something like 1000 pounds from readers, via Paypal, mostly in the year between when i left office work and, having survived the Kiel ordeal, got to the shores of Kassel, with all its George Washington whisky.

Actually, it occurs to me that this isn’t too bad, for a writer. i once ludicrously fantasized about making a living from writing but am more & more coming to see money as a wayward and perplexing phantom, with its own whims. i have never had a normal relationship with money; there seems little correlation between my work and the money i have, and since i have survived so far without having any worldly success, i have lost interest in financial scheming, much as one might turn away in final uninterest from a woman who is unpredictably & variously loving and cruel and cold, with no apparent pattern to her moods. i am now trying, as i finish my book, to awaken from the nightmare of money, to trust that things will work out, as they always have.

5. In any case, i feel such total uninterest in arguing with people, pimping myself, that the world of money is more or less alien to me. Perhaps i was born so; or perhaps years of reading Dante et al. have ruined me for the hustle, much as Laphroaig has ruined me for 8 Euro George Washington whisky.

Listening to the amusing audio accompanying this article on Political Correctness in the university, i wondered if the feminist had read much outside of her field (cognition) and feminist ideology. It’s not that reading e.g. Shakespeare will immunise you against cant, since even a great reader like Virginia Woolf wrote stridently 2-dimensional polemics, like Three Guineas, but then she also wrote the intelligent and worthwhile A Room of One’s Own. i wouldn’t say that reading good books will make you a better human being, but it can present a standard of high intellectual rigour, of accurate and honest language and complexity, which will show political ranting up as the tawdry gimcrack nonsense it is. After drinking Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain for six months, Jameson’s seems anodyne, and the 8 € stuff is outright horrific; likewise, a good education would mean years in the company of one’s betters – so a few thousand hours with Plato, Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Yeats, would make one ashamed to use language for cheap effect and ideology, ashamed to shout down dissent with a “two legs bad, four legs good!” chorus. So Yeats’ An Irish Airman Foresees his Death would show up all i have written here as secondary and inadequate enough, and the ranting feminists and ideologues as, well, 8 Euro whisky. And if Harold Bloom as usual takes things too far when he claims that Shakespeare invented the modern human, it is hard for me to read Hamlet or Othello or Lear, and then give the slightest credence to the two-dimensional ideologues, with their pre-prepared answers, their shallow certainties, their lack of humour and irony and nuance, their humanity beaten flat, their self-righteous hatreds, their causes and easy sinecures, their Polonial idiocies & bombast:

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