Monday, 22 October 2007

Les jours se suivent... ne se ressemblent pas.

What would make one forget one’s troubles with the Tax Office?

An evening with the serene Leonard Cohen.

He was at the Barbican on Saturday evening, in conversation with Philip Glass.

I was there.

It was even better than seeing Moses in the audience, that time, in the Barbican Pit.

He didn’t sing. He spoke. His voice has now become so low it’s practically inaudible. He recited a wonderful poem. He joked. He avoided answering the odd question.

The whole auditorium was filled with such love.

Later, we listened to Philip Glass’s musical settings of Leonard’s latest poems, Book of Longing, while the latter’s sketches and paintings were projected onto the back of the stage. The music was inspired (and inspiring) too and sometimes, even though it really bore no resemblance to the ex-monk’s own, it sounded like it could have been written by him.

I took a few pictures during the talk. Here is the only one that came out. I don’t need any other. I don’t need any at all. I’m not likely to ever forget that evening.

(The guy on the left is John L Walters of the Guardian.)

Friday, 19 October 2007

Fit for nothing

I am in despair. I learned this morning that the second tax return I sent by Special Delivery at the beginning of September had not been logged in.

You may remember the first one I sent by Recorded Delivery managed to get lost somehow (if you don’t, see
That famous British logic). The Royal Mail assures me the second tax return I filled in was delivered two days after being posted, but the people on the end of the phone (as I said before, you cannot speak to anyone who is actually in the office and has access to your files) tell me they have no trace of it.

What do I do now? Fill in a third one? How can I guarantee the Tax Office will acknowledge they received it?

The nonsense about the location of my Tax Office is even worse than I thought: it’s the Cornwall and Plymouth Area office, tax returns have to be sent to an address in Newcastle, where they are collected, logged in (well, some of them are) and then, guess what, they are redistributed to local offices all over the country. Which means that my files are in Cornwall, not in Newcastle. Are you following this at all? Good for you, because I’m not.

Now, of course, I missed the deadline.

And why am I getting such stress? Because I want to send these people some of my hard-earned money. What would it be like if I wanted money from them?

Don’t ask me to do anything today: it has drained me of all the little energy I had when I got up this morning. I might go back to bed.

Update (13/11/07): I'm off to the post office later going to send my third tax return (not by any special mail, but I still want a certificate of posting). I'm sending it to a real person this time. Will it be 'third time lucky' or 'jamais deux sans trois'?

Friday, 12 October 2007

Grumpy old writers

TV Reporter to Doris Lessing getting out of black cab with some difficulty (she’s 88, after all): ‘Have you heard the news?’
Doris, looking and sounding gruff, ‘No!’
TV Reporter: ‘You’ve won the Nobel Prize for Literature!’
Doris, looking p*ssed off: ‘Christ! It’s been going on for 30 years....’

...and she walked away.

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4, she said the Nobel Prize panel didn’t like her 40 years ago and told her so, and she couldn’t see why they would like her better now. She more or less said, ‘High b***** time they gave it to me!’

Later, she did say she was very pleased and reminded everyone she’d won all the other literary prizes available in Europe.

She has a right to be cantankerous; she’s earned it with brilliant books. Not all older female writers should be allowed to be rude to strangers, though. There is one out there (who shall remain nameless) who is just as grouchy as Doris, with one big difference: she doesn’t run the risk of ever winning the Nobel Prize.

I’m slapping her.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

No shepherd and no bush

So, it took me two weeks to put the BBC texts I had to translate through Babelfish, sentence by sentence, sometimes word by word. It was horrendously slow but it was very rewarding and, thanks to this new – and much more accurate – way of translating, I managed to meet my very short deadline – again (see More of the same below). Now, after taking a few days off, I’ve resumed my daily struggle with the big book I have to do for next year. I can’t Babelfish it, though: it’s much too long. Shame.

Anyway, I walked down to Hammersmith, the other day: I thought I might celebrate my new-found semi-freedom by buying some tat in TK Maxx, as is my wont. On the way, I encountered a big fridge, plonked in the middle of the pavement. It looked familiar – probably the same one I’d seen on that very same spot several days earlier. A couple of B&Bs along Shepherd’s Bush Road are being refurbished and their front gardens look like enormous skips. On the way back, I pinched a nice piece of new carpeting to use as a doormat sometime in the future. With the amount of stuff they’d chucked out I could in fact have re-carpeted my entire flat. I’m a bit of a scavenger, me. The fridge wasn’t in working order, unfortunately, otherwise I might have taken it too – it was still there.

Apart from that fridge and the lengths of carpet and underlay, I also saw one of those pathetic LOST notices that desperate pet owners pin on trees. That one was particularly heartbreaking: a cute five-month-old puppy had been taken from his owner under threat, in Notting Hill Gate. The fact that the guy was now looking for him in my neighbourhood showed that he obviously thought the villains who’d committed such a horrid deed couldn’t possibly live in upmarket NHG. Yeah, right! Like it’s not full of drug addicts and rogues of all kinds – and I’m just talking about the denizens of NHG who gather at the posh Electric Brasserie...

Still, he’s not the one who deserves to be slapped, obviously, poor man. Losing a pet is bad enough, but having to give it away yourself to criminals must be unbearable. Who would put someone through this kind of ordeal? And for what? Money?