Call of Cthulhu: Hudson & Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure


This post is an unashamed plug for this source book for the roleplaying game, Call of Cthulhu. Robert Grayston has co-authored the book, so it must be good.

Hudson and Brand, Inquiry Agents of the Obscure


So, what would YOU do about education? Part 4

Just a few questions for discussion…..

If you have been following this thread (and, just for once, boys and girls, you are completely forgiven if you have not been following it,) you will know that I am drawn towards giving children more choice in their education (see So, what would YOU do about education? Part 2 .)

I acknowledge that there are huge issues about motivation and commitment. Do children, given total freedom to learn, really want to learn?  (To quote the eldest Miss Oblique, she who at one point claimed to be on ‘Planet Anti-Maths’: “You learn your maths… and the reaction from kids is, ‘Why are we learning this? We’re never going to use it.'”


However, when we are short of mathematicians, physicists and engineers, should we not encourage mathematics and physics? Should we go further and push every child to higher standards, even if they are not ultimately using these skills, to ensure that the overall level of achievement is even higher?

But then….. What is education for anyway? To ensure economic growth? Economic growth must eventually end, unless we colonise other planets, and I can’t see us getting our act together to do that.

As I said: just a few questions.

Let’s Dance (Virtually)

Just a self-indulgent one. This is a collection of dances which, as far as I know, do not exist.

The Standing Still


From a great single by The Table. Has anybody else heard of them? This is all I know of theirs. I’m resisting the temptation to look them up on the Internet.

The disco is full of sweating bodies/ My bedroom is full of dead bodies/ Doing the Standing Still

The Skull….. etc.


From a poem by Adrian Mitchell. (See also I Have It By Heart .)

You can do the Skull/ Or the Diplomat/ But I do a dance called/ The Sorry ‘Bout That

Do the Mighty Whitey/ Or the Landlord Rat/ But I’ll keep grooving to/ The Sorry ‘Bout That

The Walk of Life

From the eponymous song by Dire Straits. It probably has some deep meaning of which I am blissfully ignorant.

The Strand

The song ‘Do the Strand’ by Roxy Music is a joyous flight of fantasy.

There’s a new sensation/ A fabulous creation/ A danceable solution/ To teenage revolution

The Funky Gibbon

This was a comedy single written by Bill Oddie  for The Goodies. I think they probably did perform this dance in reality on TV, but I have included it here simply because I wanted to show off the fact that the Soft Machine dedicated a song called ‘Stanley Stamps Gibbon Album’ to Bill Oddie.

The One-Inch Rock/ The Woodland Bop/ The Rip-Off Bop

Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex/ T. Rex are a rich source of fantasy dances. Their music before stardom has always struck me as child-like and innocent….. it drives some people crazy with irritation.

The Resurrection Shuffle

The song by Ashton, Gardener and Dyke even has some actions:

Put your hand on your hip/ Now you let your backbone slip

Sounds painful.

The Stroll

Presently we’ll have a/ Pint or two together/ Everybody do the Stroll

From ‘The Fog on the Tyne’ by Lindisfarne. Apologies if I got the lyrics of this one wrong. It’ll be alright- we’ll have a drink on a Friday night.

A footnote; Why , in using dance names, is the definite article never capitalised? “Weary of the Waltz?” Answers please. Try to avoid emphasising my ignorance.

I Have It By Heart

Learning poetry by heart has, it seems to me, often been promoted as A GOOD THING. At the time of writing, I have no firm opinion about whether or not it should feature in my proposals for an alternative education system.

I don’t remember ever being made to learn poetry by heart. I did learn chunks of Browning for quotation in exams. Now whenever I re-read Browning (yes, I really sometimes do) I realise I often learnt it wrong.

Some poetry has just stuck with me because I like it, and because I read it so much I decided I wanted to make sure I had it accurately in my head. Even then, I have to occasionally go back and refresh my memory.

Most recently, I’ve checked up on ‘Sorry ‘Bout That’ by Adrian Mitchell. I was missing  a couple of verses, but I was pretty nearly word perfect. It’s still biting and bitingly relevant, even though it must be 40 or so years old. It has the advantage of having a clear structure; this and rhythm are what make some poetry (and most lyrics) easier to memorise. This none often pops up in my head.

From that era comes ‘Vinegar’ by Roger McGough (why isn’t he Poet Laureate?) which has the advantage of being short. Another short one which just stuck was ‘The Narrow Sea’ by Robert Graves (who would probably have refused the offer of the Laureateship.) I did make the conscious effort to learn ‘Lion Lover’ by Graves; maybe because I’m a Leo.

I also took the time to learn ‘The Second Coming’ by Yeats (because I love it, if love is the right word for such a chilling piece) and ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ (because it was my mother’s favourite poem.)

Oddly enough, we once set Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ for year 6 to learn and it has stuck with me, pleasingly. (Remember, PG? You were  PC then!) I also learnt ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll as a teacher, because I love it and was always misquoting it.

That’s about it. I am pleased to see I keep mentioning pleasure here; whether this is a pleasure that all should have is a question for another time. For me,  this poetry comes back  at odd times; when I’m going to sleep I sometimes run through the repertoire. I’m glad I learnt them.

(I said in my last post that I wanted to learn more from ‘The Tempest’ but I have just remembered that I do know ‘Full Fathom Five’- or is it fadom? I must learn the bit that goes before- “This music crept upon me by the waters……” Actually it should be “This music crept by me…..” There is also a lovely Rupert Brooke sonnet which goes: “O! Death will find me long before I tire/ Of watching you.” One day…)

[I will leave you, dear reader, to work out the pictures. If puzzled, apply for answers! All are copyright free; as far as possible I’ve tried to do this for every blog post. I can’t find any copyright free for McGough or Graves.]

[All the poems are very available; Mc Gough is still very much alive, and Mitchell is still in copyright, so buy the books rather than go online. Poets and their families have to eat.]

Notes one day later: Last night as I was going through the repertoire in my head before falling asleep, I realised I also know ‘My Sad Captains’ by Thom Gunn. The work of Robert Graves is also in copyright, so buy it, don’t get it online. I realised that if you hover your mouse over the pictures, they come up with the names of the poets! Not such a puzzle.


These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins

The title is a quote from ‘The Waste Land’ by T.S. Eliot. I thought it was a quotation/ borrowing in its turn, but there is no reference to it in the footnotes of that crazy/ wonderful poem.

Perhaps all writers are shoring fragments against their ruins. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing with this blog.

These fragments are what I want to take with me when I’m finally banished to a desert island. (The one on which Prospero was exiled.) When I finally retire to a cottage by the sea. When Mrs O. finally gives up on me.

This is not a ‘best of’ or ‘favourites’ list. These are fragments I have shored against my ruins.


Collected Poems by T.S. Eliot


Eliot’s poetry is meant to be ‘difficult’, but I think that’s only if you try to understand one big coherent theme or meaning from each poem. I regard them as mosaics; scrapbooks; palimpsests.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

dscn6079Perfect. I wish I could memorise more of it. The Arden edition, with the lovely cover and notes, of course. It was the first Shakepeare play I ever saw, at school. It was just because I knew the girl playing Miranda. (In a boys’ grammar school? Draw your own conclusions.) However, I had previously been introduced to Shakespeare through doing ‘Julius Caesar’ for O-level. Thank you, Mr Williams (sadly known as Spock, for obvious reasons.)

The Bible- Authorised Version

dscn6084The ‘King James’ Bible. I know, I know,  ‘Desert Island Discs’ allows the Bible and Shakespeare. This is not a Desert Island Discs list- but the language of the Authorised Version has so many links and resonances; and it’s a collection of fragments of its own. Of course, for most people of a certain age who in the past were regular church goers the language has had a very direct influence. It still does, no matter what faith we might be now.

The next books are in a way more personal.

No Highway and Most Secret by Nevile Shute

dscn6086The first was given to me when I was convalescing from a virus; the second was my grandfather’s. (See My grandfather’s books: A gentle tribute to a gentle man.) They are just great stories. I couldn’t bear to be separated from them. They are the triumph of common but extraordinary people. I still want to write a blog about Shute, especially to persuade H. to read him, but now fear he may be too dated.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens


I also used to read this when I was really ill, along with Jeeves. Really ill, or really anxious. It was all I could bear. I usually skip the ‘interludes’, stories told to Mr Pickwick and his friends. For why I have this as a fragment, see ‘Pride and Prejudice’ below.

Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

dscn6083Any Jeeves. All Jeeves. Any Wodehouse. A release from reality. Invincibly sane. None of it matters. Yes, I know, he broadcast for the Nazis. Yes, it’s an outmoded class system. Does this face look bothered? (No, I don’t approve of the Nazis….. Oh come on, you know what I mean.)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

dscn6091I came to Austen late. I was put off by the ‘Janeites’, ladies particularly fond of her. I’m not being derogatory; they were usually very erudite. I just thought she was only for women. Now…. You know what happens in this book. It happens, every time, infallibly. Perhaps that’s why.

After that, there are so many others….

‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ by William Gibson, featuring Conrad, the Taoist assassin. Most of the works of Terry Pratchett, especially ‘The Thief of Time’- more Taoism, I feel. ‘The Wooden Horse’ and ‘Stolen Journey’ (see My grandfather’s books .) Then Shakespeare. Lots of it, including ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘King Lear’……..


Especially there are so many fragments in my head. They link, too. ‘The Tempest’ to ‘The Wasteland’, the Authorised Version to so many, Shakespeare to so many. There are echoes of ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse to all this.

Anyway. Just fragments.