Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I don’t know what to make of this weather. It’s absolutely appalling. It’s unseasonable: it’s unreasonable. I don’t care for the unexpected. I like life to be as it should be. And that goes for the weather. But all this sun and blue sky and the temptation to sit outside or to stroll along the sea front old-gentleman style is just too much.

Those of you who know me will be aware that I take a walk every morning. Nothing excessive. A couple of miles and that’s enough but I do like to fit it in. In fact I feel guilty when I can't do so. I’ve been for my walk today and feel all the better for it.

When I was in the Philippines I walked every morning and it was always enjoyable though sometimes, even early in the day, it could get a shade uncomfortable. But at least there were no pressures on my time. It was different there. Take for example one Sunday morning walk…

… My walk today was in a new direction but still accompanied by the usual smiles and calls of ‘Where are you going?' I stop to tell them and they recognise 'walk' and 'exercise' but our conversations usually reach little further than that. When I call out 'Good morning' they always respond and it sounds, their 'Good mahning, po,' so musical. 'Po', by the way, is a word frequently used in formal situations as a sign of respect.

It became extremely warm as I went along. Though it was relatively early, many people were in their backyards, playing very loud music on their wirelesses (yes, I know, I’m supposed to call them radios) or standing outside in the shade, looking at me with a kindly detached amusement - at least that is how I interpreted it. Perhaps they were saying something like, 'Why is that silly old fool walking when he can afford to hire a tricycle?'

But I was out to show that I was doing this for pleasure. It's what Englishmen do. We go for walks and put up with rain and wind and by Jove, we aren't beaten by excessively hot mornings like this, either. I was in my Alec Guinness/River Kwai mood, and despite the heat I was determined to keep up appearances for the sake of Queen and Country and so I raised my head, pulled my shoulders back, did my best with my stomach and raised my bamboo-cane walking stick in greeting as I strode on humming 'Colonel Bogey' and hoping that I shouldn't be forced to sit down to rest. But at last, running with sweat, I reached home where Josie made me a cup of tea. I really needed it. I'd put on a show and I hadn't let the Old Country down.

I’ve always enjoyed my morning strolls at home but less so at the moment because there are pressing things on my mind. I’m fretting about the waste of time as I walk and I know that when I reach home I’ll be sitting at this blasted machine within minutes. Yes, there’s work to be done but the sun is so tempting and I want to be out there. Now if it was really lousy weather I could settle down to my tasks – blogging, commenting on literary booksites, writing to reviewers asking if they’ll review A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES which has now made its appearance on Amazon Kindle. What would suit me at the moment is grey skies, howling gales, torrential downpours.

But as things are I’m distracted, longing to sit and watch the sea and the strollers and the fishermen on the pier and I want to chat to other old codgers, settling the world's problems, telling them about my gammy hip. But no, I can’t. I’m stuck in here.

Damn this weather.

Or maybe it should be damn this book.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Back home again. In fact we've been back for ten days but I haven't had much desire to get down to blogging when there has been four months' post waiting to be opened. What a grim sight. You stagger into the house after more than 24 hours' travelling and it's just sitting there on the sitting room table and you feel like burning the lot. It looks just so impossible. And you know there is likely to be a couple of time-bombs in there, unexpected demands or queries that you just haven't the will to tackle, the sort of matters that you ought to have dealt with before going away all those months ago.

Since we came back, there has been a plumbing problem, a car problem, several problems with this blasted computer...there's no end to it. And only this morning, when I was really beginning to feel that all outstanding tasks had been dealt with, the damned window in the bedroom goes phut. By which I mean that one of the springs in the side - no, I don't know what it's called nor what its real function is - made a sudden screeching sound and the window came racing down, nearly slicing off my finger. It's as if it was waiting until I began to feel that all was right with the world once more, so that its impact would be felt. So that's how life is when you climb one mountain. There's always another one waiting.

Equally frustrating - my e-book is now available on Amazon Kindle but I need to make it available in other versions but that side of things is held up. Don't ask me why. I don't do technical but I'm only hoping that by next week all will be well. Then I'll start advertising.

You may be interested in my pricing strategy. I've put it out at the lowest possible price on the pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap theory. When I told a friend about that he suggested that I was mistaken - well actually, he said I was bloody stupid but we'll see.

But back to this business of the post-holiday blues. There's only one solution. Stay at home.

Friday, 2 March 2012


Some evenings you just want to sit down and relax, just put your feet up, read the newspaper, watch TV. Nothing more till bedtime. But then some damn thing gets in the way. You just have to fit in.

Take the night several weeks ago when I was just getting comfortable, the angles of my old body just settling into the contours of my rocking chair (yes, I have one here in the Philippines and I love it.) and reading the first few pages of one of Max Allan Collins' great crime novels. Bliss!

But then comes an interruption. Cousin Perli has texted Fay with big news. Cousin Lilia and her husband have arrived in town from America.

'You would like to meet them?' Fay asks and I tell her it's up to her. She is not keen, she says. She doesn't like sudden invitations (because it doesn’t allow her enough time to put on her face is my conclusion). It seems we are not to go.

Ten minutes later I am surprised to hear Fay asking if I am not ready. Now we seem to be going.

I wash but my face is greasy, Fay says, and she makes me sit on the bed so that she can remedy the defect.

'You have to be presentable,' she says. She looks at me dubiously. 'You cannot go looking like a man from the mountains.' Many years ago she was a visiting nurse in such a region and seems not to have been impressed by the menfolk.

I'm not exactly Britain's best groomed man but to be compared to a man from the mountains is unduly harsh.

Later, when she finally has me looking unmountainmanlike, she says, 'We shall have a grand meal and we shan’t be home till late.'

Then we’re off, picking up cousins Perli and Noring and Perli's eight-year-old granddaughter on the way.

Lilia from America is a sprightly old girl. She is a doctor and confident that what she utters is direct from her Maker. At least that’s how she seems to me. Shortly after our arrival at her home and apropos of nothing, she is announcing to us that children should stand up for themselves and says you cannot go on helping them for ever, for how will they learn? 'I taught my children to fish,' she pronounces. 'I did not give them fish.' I recognise the lines from 'The Book of Worn-Out Aphorisms and Cliches of Our Time' and am tempted to ask how they are getting on in the fishing industry but I look grave and mutter, 'H'm, yes indeed, how true, how true,' as I do when I’m trying to prove to medicals and people of that type that I am just as wise and profound as they think they are.

After this Lilia dispenses packet after packet of medicines which she has brought with her for Perli and Noring. Apparently she does this whenever she comes here. It's so generous and considerate. She visits every year with her husband, Celestino, an immediately likeable man, and they stay for three months, escaping the Michigan winters.

Then there is an interruption and two ladies, local women, are admitted. They have a basket and reveal under a cloth thin strips of dried meat, about twelve inches by six.

There is some chatter and Fay tells me it is wild pig.

'Wild boar,' I tell her, the schoolmaster within me unable to shut his trap.
Fay does not respond. I sidle up to the basket and say approvingly to Lilia, 'Wild boar' as if it’s a dish I’m served regularly at my gentleman's club.

'Venison,' she tells me with an authority I cannot match.

Humbled I go to the back and nod at Celestino.

'Venison,' I tell him, again with the air of a connoisseur.

'Wild pig,' he corrects me.

Anyway, the evening ends abruptly. There is no expected grand meal. Lilia and Celestino arrived from Manila only this afternoon and have not yet unpacked. We feel obliged to make a decent exit. And to think that I had washed and had my post-wash face specially attended to.

Another damp squib of an evening, I think, but I don't say anything to Fay. It's best not to sound off in this world. Let sleeping dogs lie. Keep your trap shut. Do as you're told.

'A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES' by WH Johnson is to be published as an e-book in the next few days. It will be available on Amazon and from the author in Kindle (MOBI), EPUB and pdf. See www.johnniejohnson.co.uk