Another Comment has disappeared from Comments, leaving me now with just the one. But when I check, it is an error: there are no Comments listed, only blanks. What is happening? I am becoming more insubstantial by the day, the more I Post and Page the less interest I seem to create. You’re bored with me, aren’t you? All one of you?

It reminds me of the time, many years ago, when I got to write my first and only TV commercial for a well-known adhesive product. Before the launch, we commissioned research to find out how much awareness there was of the brand in the target area. After my ad had been running for three weeks, we tested again, only to find that brand awareness had actually gone down by five points… obviously, the message had not stuck (anymore than the product did).

The nice Spam I had from Brazil is all that is left. It says merely: ‘It was nice reading this post’. Well, it’s been lovely having you in my Spam queue. Obrigada, señora! I know that when the last Spam goes, there will be nothing left of me. Like the Wicked Witch of the North, I shall become a puddle with a pointy hat, rapidly evaporating under the Klieg lights.

Financial news: All change at MinBo

The board of digital communications giant Themindbogls plc has announced changes in response to August’s ‘disappointing’ sales figures, which sent shares tumbling Thursday on stockmarkets around the world, dribble-wibble.

‘Changing the name of the web thing to The Boglington Post might be seen by some as a short-term measure’, announced Chairman, Sir Thanatossios Boglopoulos. ‘And no doubt we shall soon be known for popular convenience as BogPo, ha ha. However, focus group research among our two readers in the Spam queue shows clearly that there is a mood for change in the cyber community. This move is fully in line with the decision to relocate our Editorial office to Boglington-on-Sea as part of our commitment to greater inclusivity. It is, as I am sure some of you may know, vaguely in the North.’

It’s thought the changes may be linked to the growing campaign by a journalist on concerned that his contributions remain unpaid after more than eight months. Commented Sir Thanatossios: ‘My own superior efforts in the literary arena have themselves attracted scant reward over the years. It is a case of having to speculate to accumulate. ‘Uncle Bogler’ is gaining valuable work experience and ought not to expect additional financial privileges. Are Bourbon biscuits not freely available in the office?’

He continued: “I agree that changing both our name and address at the same time might be regarded  in a somewhat questionable light, were it not for this superinjunction our legal advisors have obtained in advance of any such imputation being drawn or implied anywhere in the known Universe, throughout Time.’

Sir Thanatossios is 83.

Agony Uncle, please write in

For some reason, the number of Comments on this blog has been slowly shrinking over the past few months, and now stands at only two. Coincidentally, there are two similar messages listed in the Spam folder, both very kind if somewhat disjointed.

In order to spice things up a bit, as the Chinese say, I have therefore decided to start a new column offering solace to the world-weary and lonesome; people indeed not unlike myself, who might well improve from sharing their experiences with the other reader.

Opening my postbag, then, I see there is a letter from a Mr Bogl of Aberystwyth who writes:

Dear Uncle Bogler

As a proponent of luxuriant facial hair, I have noticed that the top of my moustache starts growing well up inside my nose. It seems wasted there, as no-one can see it. Is this possibly evidence for the said proboscis having evolved sometime later than the human face?

Chuckling sympathetically, Uncle Bogler replies:

Dear Mr Bogl

There is no better evidence for human evolution of any kind. Nasal hair, as it’s known, affects large numbers of people, I forget exactly how many. Strange to think that women, who like to portray themselves as clean-shaven, are, in truth, carrying moustaches around secretly inside their facial appurtenances. Thursday is well-aspected and will bring luck to Pisces.

Good advice, I’m sure you agree. Do feel free to write in. A burden shared between two is a burden halved, a wise man eventually noticed.


Face invaders

On June 6, 2011, I missed the dentist’s appointment. For the second time. They were supposed to phone to remind me. I was so embarrassed, I haven’t been back.

I always seem to come back to the D- word. If you don’t suffer from it, in the clinical sense, you probably think I should just pull my socks up, get over it, be a man. I’ve come to understand that depression is rooted in some experience of absolute disempowerment. Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness then arise in echoic situations where you feel you don’t have the power to act effectively, or at all, in the matter of your own survival. You become prey.

In the previous two years, I had had many dental appointments. The fitting of a miraculously engineered bridge consisting of no fewer than six linked porcelain crowns, involved hours of preparatory work (and not a little money!), filing down my surviving teeth to make supports, patiently building up new posts from seemingly nowhere. And there were many other interventions besides, as my ageing, overfilled molars and bicuspids cracked and broke under the strain of supporting my lifelong eating habit.

Rarely are you in such a position of helplessness as when pinned to a dentist’s chair, unable to breathe, choking on your saliva, your mouth filled with assorted tubes, mirrors and ironmongery, the smell of burning enamel assailing your nostrils. I have no fear of pain from modern dentistry, but my childhood experiences of almost certainly unnecessary fillings and the horrid grinding of that old, slow drill; the time I smashed my front teeth in a cycling accident, and had to have the nerves extracted; the embarrassments in restaurants, the years spent not smiling because my replacement front teeth had broken off or fallen out… the ultimately futile struggle to persuade the NHS to pay for restorative surgery — the whole damned saga has culminated in an overwhelming sense that I cannot face another session.

Which is a pity, because two more of my back teeth have just broken in pieces and I can see I’m going to have to eat soup for the rest of my fucking life, unless I pull my socks up, pay him the money I owe him and somehow persuade my wonderful Polish dentist to take me back on the list.

In other words, grit my teeth…

Evans Above

The death of drummer Paul Motian last November finally brought closure to the original Bill Evans trio of the early 1960s. Evans himself died in 1980, aged 50, from complications brought on by cocaine addiction. Bassist Scott LaFaro, who surely deserved the accolade of virtuoso, was killed in a car crash in 1961, aged just 25 – an event from which Evans never fully recovered.

I mention this, as I stumbled across the full version of the album Explorations on YouTube last night, and immediately got on to my pusher at Amazing uk. If a more perfect set of jazz recordings  exists outside a select list of, maybe, ten in the history of the music, I should love to hear it.

Airport charge

Why have I just recalled possibly the most embarrassing incident I have been involved in since I shat my pants on a nursery school outing? What soggy madeleine has opened the floodgate of this particular memory?

I was travelling back from a bucolic week jazz-singing in France. The journey from Chomerac, a tiny village in the Ardeche, about 40km from Valence, to my home in West Wales is complicated and arduous, involving many taxis, buses, trains, planes and quite a lot of walking. It takes approximately three days to travel the 900 miles and costs more than the week itself.

Arriving on the first evening at the airport of Lyon St Exupéry, needing to check-in early for the 8 a.m. flight to Heathrow, only 75 minutes’ flying time away, unsure of the local train service, I decided to stay there overnight. The airport is about 20 miles from the city, and there is only one hotel, which proposed to charge an outrageous 100 Euro (about £80) just for a room — dinner and breakfast a great deal extra. There seemed no point in trying to find a cheaper hotel somewhere, so rather than spend a hungry night in an overheated veal crate, and exhausted by the journey so far, I decided to snatch what sleep I could get in the departure lounge.

In the middle of the busy main concourse is a booth where, for two Euro, you can recharge your mobile phone. The fee guarantees you unlimited charging time, but you can get an instant 10-minute emergency blast for free. My phone was dead, as usual, so to play safe I took the free option. St Exupéry offers few distractions to the curious traveller, especially after 7 p.m., so after wandering around for a bit, I changed my mind and decided to pay the two Euro. After all, I was there for the duration.

To use the charger, you find a pigeonhole where there is a choice of leads to plug your phone in, depending on the make. Then you have to think up a four-number password to retrieve your phone later from the secure compartment, which has a glass front so you can reassure yourself from time to time that your phone is still there. I wandered around for a couple of hours while, one by one, the shops and the snackbars and, finally, the bar itself, put up the shutters. Resigned to finding a deckchair in some quiet corner where Security, the cleaners and the desultory skeins of baggy-eyed tourists trolleying through Arrivals at irregular intervals throughout the night wouldn’t fall over me, I decided my phone must have had enough charging. I went to retrieve it, but my password would not work.

I could see the Nokia through the glass panel, but the door remained resolutely locked. Though it was now past midnight, amazingly, the Information office was still open, manned (if that is the word) by two attractive young ladies, one of whom was being ardently pursued by a smarmy looking bloke in a First Officer’s uniform. I explained, in my best-accented French, what the problem was. Consternation! Several people then followed me to the machine and we stood around for perhaps half an hour, pushing buttons and gesticulating. Eventually, a decision was taken to summon the company’s engineer from his home.

To cut a very long story short — I feel sure you are ahead of me here — the engineer came, dismantled the machine, the phone was retrieved, and it wasn’t mine! More consternation, it appeared someone must have gone off with the wrong phone! By now it was two a.m., the Information office had closed, the women had gone home, with or without the smarmy First Officer. Reports had to be made out for the police, contact details exchanged, many apologies proffered, they were sure I would eventually get my phone back….

There was a coffee machine on the other side of the hall, so I excused myself and wandered over to it. Fumbling for loose change, I realised to my horror that there was a strangely familiar shape in my trousers pocket. My Nokia! But how? All I could do was run… hide…

Literary lion

In Howard Jacobson’s new novel Zoo Time, a struggling author is arrested for shoplifting one of his own books in Oxfam after addressing a literary circle in Chipping Camden. The precise location, a rustic haven for wealthy Kensingtonians set in the twee-est part of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, makes the story all the more poignant and funny. Oxfam!

I dropped a £10 note in Oxfam in Aberystwyth a few years ago while paying for a book with my other £10 note. I had only £20 in the world, so the loss was significant. I returned to retrieve it only moments after leaving. There was no sign of it, no-one else in the shop. The young male assistant swore blind that he hadn’t seen the note. I haven’t bought a book in Oxfam since.

Stuff the Africans, or whoever. It wasn’t your money.

Backpacking in Thailand

My 99th post. Something of a millstone in my internet career.

The tutors on the teaching course have finally passed me as barely fit for practice. I should be elated after all that sturm und drang, but it just adds another layer to the fog. Now I have a very small, paper qualification to preach English grammar to the heathen, coupled with a fervent desire not to go backpacking in Thailand.

Some disconnect there, I fear.

Reinventing the wheel

Throughout my working life, busy and incurious managers have often asked me, Mr Bogl, why do you always try to reinvent the wheel?

I should like to answer, because it needs reinventing. It keeps coming off!

But I generally reply, gnomically:  “The wheel was not an invention, it was a discovery. The invention was the axle.”

That shuts them up.