November 7, 2016


Yesterday: ‘Organising’. The Holy Trinity Church organ’s mighty Watkins & Watson Discus Blower had packed-in last week, in a puff of thin white smoke. I unscrewed the ‘acoustic box’ (so called), in which it’s housed, to determine the problem. What a lovely electric motor! Meaty, heavy, British, industrial, intimidating, and Army green — like an old diesel locomotive. I’m hoping that a failed capacitor only is to blame.

As I fell into slumber last night, a thought pressed itself upon my mind: ‘When the tree is shaken, the fruit falls’. A grim foreboding, perhaps.

Today: 8.30 am: I made preparations for teaching over the next fortnight. Various other commitments will unsettle the routine over this period. Provision needed to be made for what I would not be able to attend. 9.30 am: To the paper, once more. When am I distracted? Why am I distracted? And, how do I distract myself? Distractions are sometimes necessary – in order to give the mind a periodic break from task at hand – but they should always be under our control. On occasion, distractions beckon when I don’t:

  • comprehend the problem at hand;
  • comprehend my response to the problem;
  • engage with the problem, because I’m not convinced that I need to;
  • engage with my response, because I’m convinced of its appropriateness.

12.30 pm: Mr Davies, a keen amateur astronomer, kindly came to help adjust the family’s new telescope:


While he was focussing on unobservable planets (the top of Pen Dinas, in actual fact), Mrs Raikes, our gardener, was working in the opposite direction – liberating hitherto unnoticeable plants from a century’s old tangle in the undergrowth. This is called Bear’s Britches, I was told:


1.30 pm: Back to it. I’m half way to completing the writing, and the PowerPoint presentation is shaping-up well. On track. I seem to write to the computer more quickly when the font is red. How odd. 5.15 pm: Pause:


6.00 pm: After dinner we went out into the cold evening and pointed the telescope at the Earth’s sole natural satellite, now in its First Quarter, seven days after the new moon. Telescopes not only magnify but also, and more importantly, bring things closer. By such means, enormous distances give way to merely great distances. 6.45 pm: Practise session 1.

7.30 pm: Onwards. Keep writing. Free fall. Swap things round. Move a word to the end of the sentence. Delete the punctuation. Remove 4 out of 10 words. Be poetic. Then, avoid poetics. Find a metaphor. Strike-out perfectly good stuff in order to incorporate perfectly better stuff. When the prose gets constipated, make notes or PowerPoint slides. Always return to images.  Read down the centre of the page; capture the essence of what was written. Remember, errors of judgement and interpretation can be beautifully wrought. Therefore, distrust elegance of expression.

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