Duct Tape Baby, A Poem

January 29, 2010

You’re my duct tape baby

I’m just stuck on you

Duct tape Baby

Only cloth and glue.

When my world falls apart

And nothing will hold true

I call my duct tape baby

I’m really stuck; on you

Copyright © 2004 Robert M. Sterry

Nothing, for me at least, can give me as much sheer delight as walking into a book shop. It is not just that books are objects, that they are tactile, fragrant and possess mass. It is that because they have all these qualities that they have created a complete and wonderful creative world that deals with them. Shops, people, warehouses, paper companies, designers, and so on. And all of these have mass, presence and effect. I will continue to buy and fill my house with paper books. I will touch them every day. I will read something from them every day. I will be nourished by them not just for their words, but by their weight and feel and presence and smell in my life. I will not log in to read. I can easily leave that for another generation who can create their own world without me. Turn the physical page; that’s drama.

There is a very old song whose first line begins, “Me name is MacNamara..” and does not continue in quite the way you might anticipate. My Father taught it to me fifty years ago, and even then he had no idea from whence it came, except to suggest that it was probably a British Music Hall favorite. I have been searching for a source with no success. Here are the lyrics as he used to sing them to me.

Oh, me name is MacNamara

And me name is jolly well known

I live in the City of Glasgow

With a business of me own

I’ve got a little shop

With me name across the top

And they call me MacNamara

Of the old clothes shop.

One day a man comes into me

A suit he wanted to buy

I showed him one for twelve and six

“Try it on” says I

He tried it on, it fitted him well

Ready to walk away

When I tapped him on the shoulder

Saying the money he had to pay

He turned around and looked at me

And up his fists he drew

Knocked me in the corner

Saying, “That’s the place for you!”

“If you don’t stop that

I’ll call up the cop,

And there’ll be an execution

In the old clothes shop!”

My Father would sing this song to me in sequence with Patsy Atsy Orie Ay, Poor Little Johnny Lost in the Snow and Your Baby ‘as gone dahn the Plughole, as a sort of Saturday Bath Night Concert.  As he dried me vigorously enough to give me towel burn in front of the coke fire we would listen to Henry Hall’s Guest Night on the BBC Light Program.

As for MacNamara, you think a song like that would be easy to find, but elusive it remains, until someone else remembers it, and can provide more information. Is that you?

Are you a duvet or sheet and blanket person? I wonder if this is one of those questions that divides the world into two passionately committed camps? Two camps who find each others preferences incomprehensible and seek out opportunities to make each other appear foolish or poorly informed.

I remember my own first duvet moment. After half a lifetime of sleeping beneath sheet and blanket I found myself as a guest at a friends house that was equipped entirely with duvets. I liked the snugly feeling of warmth that welcomed me and the curious lightness. I fell asleep quickly but awoke less than half an hour later from a nightmare in which I was trapped in sauna. Which was close to the case. I was drenched in sweat. No problem I thought as I threw off the duvet cooled off and returned to sleep. I awoke less than twenty minutes later from a nightmare in which I was walking across an ice flow in my underwear.  This dreadful cycle continued through the night. Duvet on, duvet off. Nightmare (a) followed by nightmare (b).  My host was puzzled by the irritable creature that greeted him that morning. Plainly he was on the other side of the divide. I still visit him, but sleep in the sheet-like cover of the duvet, rather like a sleeping sack, and use a few old blankets that he was about to give to Goodwill.  We dont speak about our differences. We like too many other things in common for his silly derangement to upset our friendship.

Thank goodness for Netflicks. Without them I would not have discovered that Patrick McGoohan in his role as Danger Man a.k.a. John Drake actually drove an Aston Martin DB5 in at least one of the episodes in the first season, ‘View from the Villa’.  And so he beat Sean Connery to the punch by at least several years. This is of course in addition to the greater variety of plots and tight dialogue makes it addictive watching for me.

Now if only the BBC would release the tapes of Rupert Davies playing Maigret from the same time period to be sold on DVD. Michael Gambon is good in the nineties remake which one can buy or rent, but Davies set the standard to which all followers are inevitably compared and inevitably disappoint. There is some footage on YOUTUBE but hardly enough for a genuine fix.

There are many superb BBC productions that have not seen the light of day as rentable or buyable editions. Some were in fact sadly destroyed in the seventies and will never be seen unless in poor quality pirated version. As the memories of them fade and the staff of the BBC get relatively younger and less interested in the distant past we cannot expect much; unless we continue to ask why not? They cannot claim that the price of producing them is very high when any teenager with a standard computer can make movies. There must be many third-party distributors who would love to get their hands on these superb pieces of entertainment. They are certainly not making any money or friends for the BBC stuck where they are.

Fair Weather Friends

January 16, 2010

How quickly people turn. This time last year Barack Obama could not turn around without seeing a smiling face,  hearing a friendly word, receiving encouragement. Now, because he has not ended two inherited wars, closed Guantanamo, solved the inherited financial crisis, reinvented health care, and solved the global energy problem those same friends think he is a failure. 

What short memories they must have. George Bush was given eight years to do the colossal damage he did, doubling up on the laissez  faire years of Clinton and the previous republican disasters of the eighties and early nineties.  And Barack Obama is supposed to clean up this mountain of social and political ordure in one year? And he is supposed to do this with a thin congressional majority and an opposition that has no intention of cooperating on anything , but seems determined to make him fail without proposing any constructive measures themselves.

Is it this level of impatience that marks our times? We expect things to change just because we say so? We wont ourselves make any personal sacrifice to help? So it seems. It is a very sad time for America if this is really true.

A Business Marriage

January 16, 2010

I was reminded today by an old friend that a company we both worked for in the ’80s is in the process of buying another that I used to work for in the late ’70s and ’80s.  It was announced last summer and at the time it gave me a short-lived glow of satisfaction that I had actually predicted this event many years ago, and had often wondered why it had not happened sooner. From my lofty position as a field sales guy I felt I absolutely knew all the pros and cons of a deal that could only be in the billion dollar range. It was short-lived as I mentioned as I soon began to realize that thousands of others had exactly the same amazing insight. 

It also prompted to me to think of these two companies as they were in the days when I and my old friend knew them. Those weird analog days. Both companies took large gambles in hiring me and although I know I did well by them, I am not so certain they would say the same. I recall with amusement that when I worked for either one I regarded the other as the enemy, capable of spreading lies about my present companies products and services and so to be regarded with mistrust and suspicion.

I do not know where the takeover process is now, but I hope that Agilent (or as I knew it HP Analytical) does not regret its acquisition of Varian Instruments. And are Russell and Sigurd spinning in their graves?

Management No-No

January 15, 2010

Having a very strong opinion about something does not make it the Standard Operating Procedure

Two New Events

January 8, 2010

Two flattering things have happened to me recently. Firstly, I was invited to be Master of Ceremonies of the Bawdy Tales, an after hours cabaret session following the Tcha Tee Man Wi storytelling Festival in Febraury 2010. (http://www.tchateemanwistorytelling.com/) . And, secondly, I was asked to read some prose and poetry at the next concert of Portland Revels a cappella ensemble, ViVoce.  The choir sings a piece and then I read a piece before the next song. Two very different events, but both require presence and voice technique. I am looking forward to both of them.

Three Dead Heroes

January 7, 2010

The past year, two thousand and nine, apart from the none too soon departure of the last administration, has been a sad year. I had some personal departures that I wont bore the world with on this page. For me it also meant the unwelcome departure of three of my theatrical heroes. Richard Todd, Patrick McGoohan and Edward Woodward, all actors who played roles of action, danger and suspense in movies of the fifties and sixties, passed away during the year. Richard Todd in ‘The Dam Busters’, Patrick McGoohan as John Drake in ‘Danger Man’ and ‘The Prisoner’, and Edward Woodward in ‘C allan’ and ‘The Equalizer’. The tiny budgets of their movies and TV series did not prevent them from keeping me utterly enthralled then and even now when Netflix delivers my latest choice.