Ankles, teeth and the nuclear threat

Image courtesy of Les Haines, Creative Commons


I’ve been musing on the question of priorities. Just think of what we’re faced with.

The newspapers are full of North Korea and the public posturing by TweedleTrump and TweedleKim. Bluster and bragging seem to have replaced reason and diplomacy. Threats serve to escalate the crisis and China, who could bring pressure to bear on the North Korean side, seem incapable of rising above domestic policy issues. Nobody comes out of this with any credit.

At the same time, the longer term threats posed by climate change are downgraded by the US and given insufficient attention closer to home. We have an inept government determined to make the worst of a bad job in implementing the results of a referendum which should never have been held. I could go on.

So, what has been exercising my mind? Broken ankles and chipped teeth. My mate Mark plays organ at church and keyboards in the Greensand Band. Keyboards with pedals, I should add. And he’s broken his ankle. Now, clearly the first thing to focus on is sympathy, support and gentle enquiries about the incident itself. A wet manhole cover and slippage, since you ask. Drink had not been taken.  In the scheme of things, this is less of a disaster than Nuclear tests, or the Americans putting an idiot in the White House, but its more immediately painful (for Mark) and has more immediate consequences in terms of changes to gigs, rehearsal dates, ticket sales and so on. Stuff needs doing and we can get on and do it.


On a different scale again, last week I visited my local Cote, bit into my Half Chargrilled Breton Chicken and half a tooth fell out. It was a week before I could get to my dentist and have the rest removed. A week of eating on one side, of worrying about disturbing the rest of the tooth, of swallowing tooth. Worse, of not swallowing tooth and choking on it. Not earth shattering, but an anxiety that’s easier to cope with. More immediate.

Sweating the small stuff

So, are we programmed to only sweat the small stuff? And is that a good thing, helpful to our mental health? Probably. But also a bad thing, leaving the big stuff to the delusional and the incompetent. I don’t know where the balance is but I do know that I can’t influence nuclear posturing by Korea or the US but I can rearrange a band gig, get a tooth fixed, listen to an injured colleague. So that makes me feel better. And maybe now I can revert to lending my support to the more sensible and progressive elements of our domestic polity.

Arts Alive

The brochures are here

I’ve just picked up a supply of brochures for the annual Mole Valley arts festival – Arts Alive. The arrival of the brochures is a turning point in the summer for me. It reminds me that autumn is coming, it gives me key dates for the autumn diary, and it is an opportunity to check out the entries for the events in which I’m involved.


The range of events is impressive – from cave tours to brass bands, from Shakespeare to Music Hall, and from lacemaking to choral music. All the arts seem to be represented. The visual arts, drama, music, poetry. There are opportunities to participate and opportunities to sit back and be entertained. And there are grand opening and closing events. The whole thing is a tribute to the energy, skills and talents of the community and of these running events, or overseeing the whole thing.

Delivering the poem

All of which serves as a backdrop for my particular focus which is on four events. On 14th October Mole Valley Poets will be running a workshop on the delivery of poetry to an audience. Projection, breathing, commanding the stage, engaging the audience and much more will be covered along with a section on microphone technique. The afternoon, in the Stepping Stones pub, will benefit from the extensive experience and insights of actor/director Darren Cheek and will feed into the open mic evening in the same venue on the following Monday evening. Poetry Pub is an annual event which has proved popular, and an opportunity to read to an supportive audience or to just listen and enjoy a range of styles and approaches to poetry. Expect to laugh, cry and experience a few of those ‘sharp intake of breath’ moments which poetry can provoke.

Jazz Cafe

Sandwiched between these events is the Jazz Cafe on the evening of the 14th October in Betchworth Village Hall. This is a Greensand Band event and will feature swing and Latin numbers, instrumentals and vocals, and a chance to relax in a cafe atmosphere. I will be seeing how many saxes I can play in one evening.

Entente Musicale

The final event for me is Brockham Choral’s French evening on 11th November in St Martins Church. Featuring the Durufle Requiem and with the wonderful Janet Shell and Meilir Jones as soloists, it should be a treat. I’ll be working hard on the tenor line.

All of this, and much more, is described in more detail in the brochure and, of course, on line at I’ll be trying to get to as many events as I can.


Not the comfy chair

Image courtesy of Renee, via Flickr Creative Commons

The personal chair

I’ve been thinking about armchairs. Not sure why. When you come down to it though, an armchair is a solid and important presence in a room. It provides comfort and seating and, depending on design, support for the back, even the lolling head if it has wings. It can be a power base. The favourite armchair, the one no one else dares sit in.

For a writer, an armchair can take on an added significance. Roald Dahl loved his wing backed armchair so much that he had it transported to his writing hut and fashioned a sort of shelf or tray which lay across the arms so he could write in comfort. Maybe it also had the psychological effect of locking him in to the writing, or locking everything else out. For lesser mortals it can be the reading place. I write at a desk, with a laptop, but read in comfort, in an armchair. There’s nothing like it. A settee doesn’t do. My days of reading while lying on the floor are long gone. You can read in bed, but only for so long. An armchair is the answer.

The perfect chair

As Monty Python clearly knew, comfort is important. That’s why the idea of the comfy chair as an instrument of torture was so funny. So what is the perfect armchair? A high backed one, clearly, so you can lean the head back in those moments when you want to pause and digest what you’ve just read – or try to work out a tricky crossword clue. There’s been a fashion in recent years for low backed chairs and sofas. Instruments of torture. It won’t last.

Second, it should have wings, for the times when the eyes need to shut. To aid thought obviously, not to enable sleep. Then, the arms are important. Wooden ones are no use. You can’t lean against them, and books and papers cannot be safely stowed by your side without slipping through the gap to the floor. This could be highly inconvenient as they would then become confused with the newspapers and poetry books already piled next to the chair. A man must have a system, and a properly designed armchair can be the key to the system.


Before I finish my musings, a word about accessories. Antimacassars are no longer needed, at least provided hair products are avoided, as clearly they should be. Cushions are no more than a nuisance. The chair is already designed to be comfortable if it’s any good. The only accessory needed for a decent armchair is a side table. A convenient surface for cups of tea, biscuits, maybe a glass of wine, some peanuts. A solid table that the dog will not knock over, positioned within easy reach. Which leads me nicely to the end of this train of thought. It’s time for coffee and the crossword.

Cycling mania

Image courtesy of Rob Annis, Flickr . Creative commons

We had the Prudential 100 through again last week and the local papers have been full of both the enthusiasm of countless fans and the trials and tribulations of those who can’t get out of their street because of road closures. I’m torn. It’s a big event, it brings a buzz to the town, and the cycling bug must be beneficial for general health but the regular road closures are, undeniably, a major pain. Anyway, it brought to mind my commentary on the Olympic visit to Dorking, reproduced below

Olympics in Dorking

When the cyclists come through Dorking

They’ll do so at a speed

that’s probably illegal

At least those in the lead

They’ll shoot round Pump Corner

As a speeding, flashing bunch

While we watch for a moment

And then go back to our lunch

We’ll raise a cheer, they’ll raise some dust

Don’t get some in your eye

No. Watch the wall my darling as the peloton goes by.


It’s not the kind of cycling I’m minded to attempt

They’re fast and slick and furious

I’m slower, more unkempt

I like to struggle up the hill

to Peaslake for some tea

And chat to other bikers who are resting just like me

Can’t stop too long, don’t want a chill

So off again up Holmbury Hill


I might stop in the Hurtwood Arms, for food of course, not beer

Or gently cycle down the road to grab a bite in Shere

And downhill, pedalling furiously, and looking for a thrill

I’ll go as fast as they do when they’re racing up Box Hill


When the cyclists come through Dorking, the whole town will turn out

Because they’re keen or just to ask ‘what’s all the fuss about?’

They’ll see a feast of lycra, not a sight to please the eye

So it’s watch the wall my darling as the peloton goes by

©C A Earnshaw 18.6.12

Democracy Inaction

Image courtesy of Frank Doyle via Flickr

Failure to represent

Talking to a fellow dog walker this morning, I was reminded just how inadequate our elected bodies can be. We have a local issue which concerns a proposal to drill for oil on Leith Hill. The list of reasons why this is a bad idea is long and varied. It’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, access would be along narrow sunken lanes wholly inappropriate for HGVs, the activity would threaten the drinking water supply of the local towns, there would be unacceptable consequences for the local eco system, Leith Hill is a much loved area for walkers, cyclists and riders and contributes much to our well being, the oil could be accessed from elsewhere, local residential roads would be turned into lorry parks and more. Not to mention the fact that our climate change commitments, signed up to by the government, mean we should be focussing on replacement sources of energy rather than oil. So the local council is against it, obviously. Well, no. That is to say Surrey County Council is showing little interest in  standing up for the residents and environment they are supposed to protect.  Or maybe it’s just powerlessness against big money? Mole Valley District Council shows more interest in objecting but has little say in the matter.

To be sure, initial planning proposals were refused, appeals were refused. The oil company in question (Europa, since you ask) simply kept on going, throwing money at it, finding loopholes, resubmitting, wearing down the opposition, and moving ahead incrementally.


Resistance has come not from our elected representatives (with a few honourable exceptions) but from the Leith Hill Action Group (who have worked tirelessly over the years to respond to applications, to object to plans, to gather evidence), from many local people who have written, emailed and demonstrated, and from the protest camp which sprang up on the site and remains there despite recent evictions. The protest camp dwellers come from around the country and tend to be people focussed on the issue of oil exploitation, fracking or otherwise. They look and sound rather different to the inhabitants of a Surrey village but there has been a strong bond between local and campers with a regular supply of hot meals and other support being provided; a sense of all being in this together. Just a pity the county council appears not to share that feeling.


There’s no shortage of opinion pieces about the way certain sections of society are not represented by our democratic institutions, or how they feel that to be the case. Brexit has been seen as a result of this, a protest vote. UKIP play on the feeling of alienation, of lack of representation. The consequences are dangerous. The groups most affected are held to be the young, or the unemployed, or those on benefits; people in areas where the traditional industry has died. None of this applies here. The consequences of ‘drilling the hill’ will affect everyone, regardless of employment status, age or class. Drinking water polluted, roads clogged, air quality impacted, and more. So it’s time for our politicians to stand up and be counted. Before we all decide there’s no point in having them.