Friday, 31 December 2010

Jolly Good Films

I am in Anglesey for a couple of days just checking up on the old country estate. All well, serfs not restless etc. The northern boundary has been renewed and this is the first time I have been able to inspect the work of the local artisan ie the bloke who put up the new garden fence. Looks jolly good, gravel boards, the full monty.

I spent an enjoyable day yesterday drafting  a university essay and at its end I treated myself to watching a film I had been meaning to get round to for ages. But first things first. On the night of my arrival (great journey up here in the precious Jag, stereo belching Mozart) BBC4 went some way to justifying the licence fee (but why not shown on terrestrial channel?) by showing a recent Italian classic, Gomorra. This is the antidote to pillocks who find the mafia glamorous - unrelenting, ugly and brilliant.

That was my first night here. Last night I watched something possibly even better. I hadn't seen Donnie Darko, somehow always overlooking the freebie dvd in among the pile of films we keep here. Well I rectified that late last night and what a bloody treat. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I had seen David Lynch's Lost Highway recently at university and really rated that. There are echoes of that film in Donnie Darko but the latter is altogether more efficiently realised. This is one to watch and watch again. I will be amending the list of my Top 50 Films. A list with which I may bore you in the future. Since I wrote the list a few years ago (compiled at the behest of a friend's film obsessed son who was very taken with our big tv and rather less impressive dvd collection) I have occasionally had to admit new entries (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3 would be two such) but I have never been brutal enough to relegate other films so my Top 50 now has more than 50 members. This has the ring of a New Year resolution about it. What could be more important than reimposing the internal discipline of a list that noone gives a shit about other than me? For anyone who doubts the vitality of listing and ranking cultural artefacts I refer you to another film on my list, High Fidelity, which I have also re-viewed this week. Here's a mildly provocative statement - I think films of Nick Hornby novels are actually rather better than the books. Heretically I feel the same about Lord of the Rings.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Advent 24

Could it ever have been in doubt? Christmas films come and go (some of them not nearly quickly enough) but one stands preeminent. A Very Happy Christmas to all our readers and may your god go with you in 2011.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Advent 23

At the risk of upsetting my precious XK8 (nice and warm in the garage just as she deserves) today I share with you my favourite piece of automotive pornography. When I sell the film rights to the novel I haven't even written yet, this is what I'm going to buy myself. This is the Aston Martin DB9. This is design at its loveliest.

Advent 22

Today, another memorable public space. Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Its elegant pragmatism was brought home to me again yesterday at the Christmas concert. This was followed by a very well cooked piece of belly pork swilled down with champagne. We students know how to live.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Advent 21

Today we have my favourite film of the year. The third film in a franchise can be problematic even with the best product: exhibit A- Return of the Jedi (and let's not even go near The Phantom Menace); exhibit B- Godfather Part 3. We can make an exception of Return of the King but when all is said and done Lord of the Rings is really one great big film shown in three manageable segments.

Which brings us to Toy Story 3. With or without 3D trickery this is a lovely, warm, fuzzy, funny film. My daughters and I have grown up together with the Toy Story trilogy. How ironic that by the end of it all they are more mature than I am.

Confused Old Bloke Swallows Own Foot Whole

I hope this is not some sort of elaborate Christmas hoax designed to cheer me up because it just keeps getting better and better. I'm going to start a Facebook campaign to inundate Saint Vince's office with links to the OED definitions of 'prejudice' and 'impartiality'. The story unfolds at just how stupid is this bloke?
Read it and weep. This is our governing class at work.

Confused Old Bloke Claims Possession Of Nuclear Weapon

I've been avoiding general blogging in favour of my little advent project but some things are just too good to miss. Even as one lamented the passing into relative obscurity of Harriet Harman so something almost as good hove into view on the horizon. Saint Vincent of Twickenham, self-ordained conscience of capitalism, can ensure that we poor little people sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that if all else fails he will save the world. Far be it from me to advise such a pillar of rectitude but might he not want to pause to take his foot out of his mouth before he dons his cape of righteousness. The Christmas special edition of the Vince Show is available at Hubristic Knob-Head

Monday, 20 December 2010

Advent 20

I didn't say this was the best play I've encountered this year. That would be a little number known as Othello. No, what I promised you was the piece I most enjoyed this year. And what is not to like about Ford's brilliant potboiler? There is comedy, incest, bawdiness, incest, violence, poetry, murder, religion and did I mention, incest. We finish with various bodies on stage and a human heart skewered on a dagger. People who enjoy Eastenders should be forced to watch this Caroline gore-fest to see what drama really is. Delicious. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Advent 19

Nice and simple today. The best book I've read this year is (drum roll, open envelope, knowing smile)

Tomorrow we shall unveil my favourite piece of drama encountered AD 2010

Advent 18

Now this is what you call a picture and this is what you call an essay about an article about an epic latin poem and the same picture. Still with me? No, neither am I but I defend to the death the right of people to be cleverer than I. Thicker as well of course. Picture first.

Velazquez - Las Hilanderas (at the Prado). Bloody beautiful. And now for proof that there ain't 'alf been some clever bleeders (lucky bastards, lucky bastards) [a tad more cultural iconography for you there - Ed] we refer you to 'Enslaved Sovereign'  which makes reference to the mandatory Foucault. Now as any fule no, references to Foucault fall into three categories. The first class referrer will actually have read him and may even take issue with him; the upper second referrer will have read about him; the lower second class referrer (proud owners of an honourable gentleman's 2.2 as we like to call them - my Dad liked his so much he went out and got another one) will have heard his name and thinks it funny. I think it's funny but what do we post-structuralists know? Foucault, it would seem.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Advent 17

At Christmas one should have fine cheese. This is the cheesiest of all the great Christmas songs. One might even say it's a cracker - see what I did there, cheese and cracker, geddit?

Advent 16

I have tendencies to the snobbish but I am getting better. In particular I have come to love an educational institution which has given me more fun and friendships than my earlier 'elite' university involvement. So stand and take a bow Birmingham Polytechnic/University of Central England/Birmingham City University. You done good.

I walked its precincts today, hung-over but vaguely thirsty for knowledge, and I met people I like and who share my passion for the power of the word. Cool.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Advent 15

I did bloody well out of Walsall and, you know what, I rather love the place. It is honest. Ignore the occasionally daft politics and look at the people - honest. And I was part of the town's best firm of solicitors. Not a big boast you might say (you would be right) but it sits fine with me. We created jobs and we helped clients do the same. I can live with that.

Which brings me to the Walsall Art Gallery. Not everyone's cup of tea but my idea of what a public space should do and a decent bit of modern architecture. But what do I know?

Blogging nice and early today. Off soon for a swim and then out on the piss. Peace and goodwill to all mankind - well most of them anyway.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Advent 14

Saw the doctor this morning and the good news is I'm not mad - just dangerously sane.

I've been a good boy and tried to do a bit of work today but concentration is elusive. Tomorrow will be a better day but only because I am celebrating Christmas at university with my kind young friends. Planning to go swimming as an early morning prelude to an afternoon of imbibing. Lessens the guilt if not the headache.

Today we have a radio show. Bill Nighy is brilliant at playing, well, Bill Nighy but he also inhabits the soul of actor/detective Charles Paris. There are series of A Charles Paris Mystery running on both Radio 4 and Radio 7 at present. Radio 7 is one of the best things about the internet Radio 7 homepage. You have to sort through some tawdry old crap but the good stuff is well worth the effort

Monday, 13 December 2010

Advent 13

Another favourite picture and again it is one housed at the National Gallery. It's also a very big picture and I like big pictures. They hide a multitude of cracks. Seurat's Les Baigneuses.

And looking at the big picture is what I've been trying to do today in order to cheer myself up. But it is only partly working because I know the cracks are there and that eventually the whole sodding edifice is going to fall down. Which one might say is the even bigger picture.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Advent 12

Rod's funeral was fitting for the man. Positive, uplifting. This was the final hymn.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Advent 11

This tune is stuck in my head. I'm going to Rod's funeral today. Happy Christmas.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Advent 10

I'm still in a filthy mood, but not with you. You I love.

Another compilation album but one full of nice surprises. I had forgotten how good Johnny Rotten turned out to be.

And the artwork is cool as well. Please do not forget that anger is an energy. I will not forget.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Advent 9

It's deja-vu all over again. I refer you to the entry for 14 October. It's happened again. So no I haven't had a good day thankyou. Truth be told I've had a right shitty day and I don't deserve it. There I've said it. Isn't self-pity pathetic.

What I need is cheering up. So here it is, the very best scene from the very great Green Wing. I feel better already. Just double click on the video box to get full screen if you don't want to see the cropped version. This seems to be a problem with my embedding technique but hey you're bloody lucky I can do it at all.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Advent 8

Nothing can be more certainly middle-brow than listening to Classic fm. Nobody does this who really understands classical music (as I most certainly don't) - they listen to Radio 3 and write to the papers about how it is being dumbed down. They could very well be right but, to my eternal shame, I am just not equipped to comment.

So anyway I am driving to university this morning and Radio 4 is annoying me (Libby Purves, Midweek, just doesn't do it for me) so I flick until I hear the familiar strains of Beethoven's 6th Symphony, the Pastoral. This is one of the few pieces of classical music I own and one of even fewer I can name. Rather obliquely this has to do with 'A' level French and a novel by Andre Gide but I'm not going to go into that since it ends at the low point of my academic career and I don't want to go there again. So that's it for today pop pickers, what young Alex in A Clockwork Orange would have called a lovely bit of 'Ludwig van.'


Advent 7

Sorry, I'm a tad late posting this one. Started last night but then hit a technical glitch. Have now swithched it off and on again a few times until eventually getting the required outcome. Am available for home call-outs at the usual rates.

Advent door number 7 is a serious one - Aung San Suu Kyi is a potent symbol of dignity in the face of oppression. Nice piece about her a couple of weeks ago in The Spectator which commented that hers is 'the true anatomy of courage' and she has 'the self-sacrifice of the early Christian saint.' The full text can be seen at A portrait of the Lady

Monday, 6 December 2010

Advent 6

Today a poem. A rather fine poem, whether read sentimentally or ironically. I can manage both depending on my mood. The poet is buried in Bennington, Vermont and I once visited the grave. Not a pilgrimage, just happened to be in the vicinity. Vermont is magnificent.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Advent 5

I have received some advance criticism for today's choice which I notified to a boisterous dinner party last night. My motives have been questioned for the choice of what I hold to be a masterful piece of pop music. Check out the video for Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head to see whether or not my wife is right to be sceptical.

Now that has to be the best use of a bedsheet in recent memory. Tomorrow will be more classy. Possibly.

By way of a contrast please also see Your Dad performing this classic at Glastonbury 2008. The lead singer (if you can call it that) is BCU's very own and lovely Ian Marchant.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Advent 4

If on Desert Island Discs you were allowed to add one joke to sustain you along with the eight records, bible, Shakespeare and chosen book (Simon Raven for me) I think this is the one I would take with me. It is silly, clean and surreal. It works on adults and children.
What's white and can't climb trees?
A fridge.
Now we have to be careful with this culturally vital joke because it is endangered. It has been brought to my attention that people are these days populating their kitchens with refrigerators of non-white colouring. If this carries on then future generations will see this joke and wonder what the hell we were all laughing at. Or maybe, just maybe it will become an artefact beloved of the learned because only they will know the historical context. I hope so. It deserves to live on.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Advent 3

Video killed the radio star. Well actually it didn't, not quite. Radio remains the medium of choice at breakfast time and the Today programme on Radio 4 is surely Britain's most influential news outlet. John Humphries often infuriates but I can put up with that (and he never comes close to the Paxman scale of self-indulgence) while James Naughtie is a national treasure -cool, incisive and clever in an unobtrusive unshowy way (that's right Paxo I'm talking about you.) Naughtie should be on television more than he is but I'm afraid he doesn't really have the face for it. If you ever get word of a programme with him in it, particularly if it is about books, watch it. It is bound to be good.

I nearly elected Woman's Hour as today's cultural icon but wasn't sure how this would stand with my radical feminist credentials. Is it a subtle manifestation of the patriarchy, or even an insidious agent of an oppressive matriarchy? Buggered if I know. What I do know is that, especially when Jane Garvey hosts, it often makes me think. Sometimes I just think, 'that can't be right', but at least I'm thinking. This morning a guest baldly stated that 'there are 12 million disabled people in Britain.' This went unchallenged. It should not have done. Define your terms. Tell me where they all are. Do I count as one? Because noone asked me.

Tomorrow's calendar door will reveal a joke. Bet you can't wait.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Advent 2

As I said this one comes with love from me to you. The Beatles. The Beatles whose cultural importance should not be forgotten. The Beatles who adorn the cover of the two greatest compilation albums ever concocted, the first of which is shown below. I had this on red vinyl. You don't get that with downloads now do you.

Now once again I may have offended the purists by going for the cover of a compilation but I tell you on a student budget the red and the blue were  the ones to go for. Only later did one start to fill in the gaps by buying the original albums.

As I write the snow still lies round about, deep and crisp etc. And the frigging useless Audi lies abandoned on Hillwood Road because it can't make it up the hill. Vorsprung durch technik meinen arse. As you can tell I did Latin at school. Somehow it seemed more fitting than German. I have never regretted it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Advent 1

I love Christmas. More particularly I love the build-up to Christmas. I love December. Once we get to 1st December I hold that we can start being festive. So as a treat for our readers we at The Overgraduate are going to construct our own little advent calendar. Each day between now and Christmas Eve (which is of course the very best day of the year, better than Christmas Day itself) we will celebrate a cultural artefact of note. These will be a celebration of the Beast's occasionally low, mostly middle-brow, infrequently high-brow tastes.

Let us start with a painting. I used to wander down the Strand to the National Gallery to admire this one. Some think Henri Rousseau rather vulgar. This may very well account for my liking him. Here it is with love from me to you. Which may give you a little clue about tomorrow's calendar entry. See you then.

PS. The original's bigger - go see it.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

.... Are Brilliant Mark V

Angela Carter. Danielle (a very wise young woman of my acquaintance - a point I mention by way of boasting that I do actually know some young women) told me an age ago that Carter was brilliant. I did not initially act on this information but the degree syllabus eventually left me with no choice in the matter - well God bless the reading list is what I say. Oh and God bless Danielle whose advice I will henceforth heed. Carter's is writing so good that it leaves you breathless and envious of its sheer bloody audacity. Read anything of hers but make sure you don't miss Wise Children which is very,very funny. Wodehouse funny (yes that good) but with lots of shagging.

Belly pork. Once unfashionable and reassuringly cheap. Now de rigueur (no matter how many times you look at it that word looks like it's spelt wrong) and a bit pricey. Used to eat it a lot when I was a student. Nothing wrong with a bit of fat. Years ahead of my time of course. My next prediction is a fad for Dundee cake and instant custard, which I used to have for pudding every night until the cake had run out and I would go home and get Grandma to make me another one. Sadly my dealer died a few years ago. Proud Yorkshirewoman my Grandma - knew what she liked and liked what she bloody well knew.

Old films. This of course is a bit of a generalisation but what the hell, they're better than new films. It's a matter of soul and style. I can't put  a date on when old films stop and new ones start, which rather gives the lie to my argument. How about 1960? If that's the case smart-arse how do you explain The Godfather? Or M*A*S*H? Or Hoop Dreams? Or Toy Story? This is a post I wish I'd never started. What I will do is put in a word for Now Voyager (1941) - melodrama has its place in the pantheon but is it ok for men to cry? The new man Overgraduate thinks it is but he's rather a weed when all is said and done and hopes the rugby club are not reading this.

Red wine. Another sweeping generalisation there but I've had a couple of glasses and it doesn't half aid the creative process. In that regard it works far better than white wine. On the down side it gives you a worse head-ache. One's life is bedecked with such problems. No doubt Hemingway felt much the same.

Snow. A contentious one this because the currently fashionable response is to curse it and also to bemoan our inability to carry on doing whatever it is we do as soon as it is inconsiderate enough to fall. But work with me here - it looks lovely, particularly from the window of my edge of the countryside middle-class redoubt. I'm looking at it now. God bless us one and all.

The Republic of Ireland. If a country is to go bust it should do it with a certain degree of style and a marked lack of self-pity. The Irish way is so much more dignified and proper than the Greek. As for the benighted Euro, well I've been singing this song for ages - the question of a single currency is not one of economics it is one of politics and above all sovereignty. That he kept us out of it will be Gordon Brown's monument. That he wanted in should be one of Blair's. One does wonder what those twin buffoons Heseltine and Clarke make of the present fiasco. There's no fool like an old fool.

Amateur dramatics. Recently finished a brief run as the pater familias in Little Women. This was a very small role and one I made a solid attempt to cock up but all was alright on the night(s). Perhaps the most reassuring thing about it was the young cast, several of whom were uniquely hopeless in rehearsal but blithely assured us they would be fine in performance. The young were right and we old gits need not have worried. I'll be back for more if they'll have me.

Sideshow Bob. A great comic creation. It stands to reason that I would like The Simpsons because I am after all a man of taste and discernment, but when Bob is in town the comic ante is upped. Kelsey Grammer's finest hour. True aficianados will also appreciate Bob's brother Cecil. The two are here shown together in a tender family moment after Cecil springs Bob from prison.

Finally, red wine. Oh, done that already. Say goodnight Sooty.

Confused Old Bloke Given Position Of Power ... Meanwhile Welsh Take The Piss

On 22 September the Overgraduate/Big Fat Pig/Post-Stucturalist/Feminist admitted to confusion and pleaded to Saint Vincent Cable of Twickenham for help in understanding his position on property taxes. Vince has not been in touch, although we did modestly note his conversion on the question of a graduate tax - see Overgraduate Claims Another Victim, 17 October 2010. Well now we know why he has been too busy to contact us - he's having a complete breakdown which leaves him incapable of making his bloody mind up - Now I'm a reasonable chap but can someone please tell me how this bloke gets away with it and is not castigated for his intellectual poncing about. I like people who think an issue through but I don't want to watch and listen to them doing it, not at least when they are ministers of the crown. What we see here is the consequence of having in power people who had never seriously contemplated this happening to them. As a client of mine used powerfully to say, 'either piss, or get off the pot.'

And as for the Welsh (my ancestors of course) well you have to admire the sheer bloody cheek of it - A rather marvellous effect of this will be to increase the number of middle class English families buying property in the principality. Plaid Cymru will be oh so chuffed at that.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Rodney Meere

A friend has died. W.J. Rodney Meere was the brother of my business partner Richard. Rodney was first a client and soon a friend. We played golf together, we drank together and we talked, how we talked. One night on a golfing jolly to Norfolk our discussion got so heated that the anxious waiter came over to check that all was in order. We laughed. We just liked to argue. Rod was a contrarian. So am I. I found it charming. I hope he did likewise.

Rodney was a man of substance, material and intellectual. He could wear an expensive suit less tidily than any man I have known and he introduced me to places I might never have ventured without his generosity. Best of all he treated me (indeed everyone so far as I could tell) as an equal, which I wasn't.

I will remember him thus: we were playing golf at Bamburgh, indubitably one of the world's most stunning spots; it was competitive (it always was) and we had reached, I think, the 16th, perched on a cliff-top and with a cavernous void in front of the green - one left one's trolley at the edge of the void and crossed to the green; Rod and golf trolleys were ever incompatible; as Rod putted I looked back down the fairway and was just in time to see his trolley, parked too close to the edge, topple comically and slowly forward and deposit his clubs into the valley below; he thought my laughter impertinent until I explained that I was not laughing at his putting; out of deference to his greater age I scrambled down to collect the clubs; we played on and the match was halved. There is a nice symbolism to that outcome.

A friend has died, but bloody hell it was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Bloody Students

Student unrest is back! The spirit of '68 lives! Well that's probably a bit strong but nice to see the streets of London paved with spotty protestors again after all these years. See Quite takes me back to the days (well day really) when I marched under the NUS banner through the streets of that London. I was telling some of the youngsters at university about it and it reminded me just how far we have come in the three decades that separate my two degree courses.

Now nobody has ever called me a socialist and lived to tell the tale but I took to the streets back then in support of the NUS campaign for full grants for all students, regardless of means. Grants, yes bloody grants. They used to pay us to go to university and the amount you got depended on how rich your folks were. Never mind fees, we didn't have to worry about those. No, we got a grant to live on. Oh and we were taught in groups that could be managed without crowd control skills. A golden age? That would be a tad strong but it does make you think doesn't it. My thought process back then at the dawn of Thatcherism (befuddled of course by the drink I bought with my grant) was something like this:
  • public funding of  further education was a good thing, a privilege which some of us abused but one worth preserving
  • public funding should be applied even-handedly - we were old enough to vote and to fight in wars and it was insulting to be rewarded/punished for the poverty/wealth of our parents 
  • a social contract existed which conferred on me certain privileges which came with matching reponsibilities. Quite possibly this last one was rather old-fashioned and Pooterish of me but it was how I had been brought up, also incidentally how my (state) education encouraged me to behave 
Which of these doesn't hold up today? I'm serious please tell me, and also tell me why we can't have a sane debate about precisely how many people we want to pay to go university (if any - I'm persuadable on this point I suspect). Current political debate is intellectually bereft which really is a bugger given how many of the people in it have had a university education. The whole issue makes me very sad. Does anyone other than me talk of a social contract any more? Is it the same as the Boy Cameron's bloody Big Society?

There is hope despite all this bollocks. I thought as much as I left the pub at lunch time after an illuminating chat about all sorts of guff but mostly about why I am now a post-structuralist having come out of my radical feminist phase, which, let's face it, lasted longer than anyone expected. I've never been a marxist so maybe I should give that a go as well, particularly since it is now so unfashionable. That Roberts, what are we going to do with him eh? I'm the only man who drifts leftwards as he gets older. We finish with another question - who is that in the picture? He's my new hero. A gift voucher for the Overgraduate gift shop for the first correct answer.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cultural Reinforcement

Another big up for The Overgraduate. Stephen Fry (aka Clever Bastard/National Treasure) is reading his latest memoirs on Radio 4 and it turns out we have something in common. Stephen Sondheim has never phoned me up for a friendly chat, nor have I been on the West End stage. Nor am I referring to our shared bipolar disorder. Nor even to our mutual acquaintance with Professor Nick Craddock - Fry is patron of Craddock's pioneering work on mental illness and we bought Craddock's house off him. Bloody small world isn't it.

No, what we have in common is an admiration for Simon Raven's Alms for Oblivion sequence of novels. Fry was reminiscing about a lunch with Mark Boxer (no, never have though I did meet his wife, Anna Ford - long story) and his story took in Boxer's illustrations for an edition of Anthony Powell's more famed (and rather less mucky) sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time. Don't worry I'll get to the point in a minute. Fry said that the Powell novels sit on his bookshelf next to the Raven and that he prefers the latter. Bloody coincidence - that is exactly how my shelves are arranged and how my tastes run. Like Powell, love Raven. If they'd let me cheat a bit on Desert Island Discs I'd take the entire Alms sequence with me. Funny. And rude. But mostly funny. That Stephen Fry knows a thing or two.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Overgraduate Claims Another Victim

Meant to boast about this earlier but had an attack of modesty. That has worn off and normal service has been resumed. The Overgraduate can categorically claim full credit for this good news story
Incontrovertible evidence that the movers and shakers in society are reading this page. Well someone must be the straw etc so why not me? And in an instance of what we may term internet serendipity if you type 'the overgraduate' into Google the first three entries you get will take you to these pages and the next will alert you to Saint Vincent's damascene conversion. Spooky or what? By the way I am wholly aware that noone bar me has ever typed 'the overgraduate' into Google. If I am wrong please let me know and inflate the Beast's ego yet more.

.... Are Brilliant Mark IV

The Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. I have Dad to thank for putting me on to these. I would generally say that historical novels or naval stories are not my sort of thing but these are just plain good writing. Alan Judd is right,

the most significant extended story since Anthony Powell's 'A Dance to the Music of Time'
I've recently completed number 12 of 20 so lots more fun to look forward to.

The Ryder Cup. I was ambivalent about the latest renewal (partly irked by Montgomeries's omission of Casey - still think this was misguided) but I was of course wrong. You couldn't have scripted the finale and expected to be believed.

Film Noir in general but particularly Touch of Evil. Orson Welles - consummate show-off but with the talent to make it work without annoying. Quentin Tarantino please note. Another reason to admire Welles - he was for a time married to Rita Hayworth. They don't make 'em like that any more.

The Heineken Cup. Proper rugby, bloody by tooth and claw. Looking forward to the final in Cardiff next May already, tickets are bought and hotels booked. Boys on tour. At around that same time I will be aiming to do my first triathlon which should make for an interesting hole in my training. Which goes well still. Lost another pound last week so continuing in the right direction. Cycling on the menu for tomorrow.

Returning to Thursday's theme (see The Wrong Marine, 14 October) today's martial stylee cliche - revenge is a dish best served cold. The Beast will be suitably cool by tomorrow.

What A Lot Of Old Nonsense

Lord Browne has spoken and everybody seems to be listening, which one could say is mighty generous on the part of the public given that he is a disgraced former chief executive of BP whom insiders credit with encouraging the lax safety culture which put paid to his hapless successor when the Gulf of Mexico became an oil slick. And what is he talking about? University funding that's what. Now this is one of those subjects on which our entire political class seems incapable of talking anything other than amoral bollocks.

God bless then the Principal (or whatever it is they call him - their website doesn't readily tell you) of the London School of Economics (an institution of which I try to speak well as infrequently as possible - it's a tribal thing) who caustically described the Browne Report as 'a report by an engineer for engineers.' Ouch!He went on to point out there will be something more than faintly ludicrous about the public purse subsidising a chemistry undergraduate at Imperial  but not an economist at LSE when both of them are going to end up working at Goldman Sachs.

News flash: education has its own intrinsic value. It's good for us to have an educated polity drawn from all along the social spectrum. Universities, proper universities are not glorified machine shops for turning out uber-apprentices. Philistines, bloody philistines all of you.

I spent a pleasurable hour or two yesterday watching a vile-tempered game of rugby won by AOE. I did so in the company of several of my peers including a physics graduate, an engineer, a chemist, an insurance broker and a night club bouncer who once absconded from the French Foreign Legion. All equals, none philistines, some graduates, some not. Not entirely sure where I'm going with this save to say that they were the product of a more egalitarian age where the place of education was respected but not glorified and people were so much less precious than the cult of victimhood now dictates.

One final plea. Can we please not hear another university leader describing his or her students as 'consumers.' It's not a sodding bazaar lads.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Wrong Marine

It is now Sunday afternoon but I wrote this post on Thursday evening and was then persuaded to let it simmer before posting it. I have reflected and decided to ignore the wiser counsel and let you read it anyway. Somewhere in it is a mood worth recording ...

I swam hard and, for me, fast this afternoon, not even stopping for the usual little breather after each length. Where did the motivation for this effort come from? Anger that's where. I was bloody fuming. Still am a bit despite drowning some of my mood in the pool.

I have written, deleted and rewritten this paragraph at least four times now, each successive version becoming less immoderate. I am not going to name the guilty although I would like to thank him for bringing the burn to my workout. No I am going to use the proper channels. The perpetrator who has so irked the slumbering Beast of Erdington will not read this of course but those who are daft enough to do so can please indulge me anyway and let me quote you a great line from an ungreat film. A Few Good Men, spoken as are so many memorable lines by Jack Nicholson,
This time you f***** with the wrong marine.
Actually now I come to think of it that's not a great quotation after all because in the film the Nicholson character ends up being outfoxed by Tom Cruise and that's not really what I've got in mind. Metaphorically speaking you understand. It isn't Tom Cruise who's upset me. Never met the bloke.

There's something rather revitalising about good old fashioned fury and the mood of determined retribution it can engender. I've been a much nicer boy for the last few years but there's life in the old dog yet. Like with that bloke Blair it's all about respect innit. The Beast is back and this time he's wearing Converse.

Which brings us to today's favoured quotation from Johnny Rotten and PiL,

Anger is an energy

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Big Fat Pig Downgraded

Been a few days since my last blog. Sorry if you've missed it but you really ought to get a life. Back at university now and feeling not a little sad at it being the final year already. It has been a blast and should really be allowed to continue for a little longer. I now have the final year student's perrenial problem of trying to decide just what the hell I want to do after graduation. It has been a long time since the Overgraduate applied for a job. I will keep you posted.

But the big news is this: Big Fat Pig is no more. He is deceased. He is an ex fat pig. He is now officially recognised as a Medium Fat Pig. He has crashed below a significant target on the weight-loss trail. Vanity prevents me from disclosing the massiveness of the barrier and there is still a fair way to go but I have today had the forgotten pleasure of wearing a belt for its real purpose rather than as mere trouser decoration. I am mining the abandoned depths of my wardrobe for neglected apparel. Somewhere in there may be some crushed velvet loon pants desperate to get back into fashion. Girls go crazy for a sharp dressed man. As if.

I have been eating a tad more sensibly but the real key has been my revived appetite for exercise. As ever with me this might be described as a little obsessive. With the recent history of calf strains (though the acupuncture seems to have ameliorated this) I confine my running to the weekly refereeing but I have been feeling markedly fitter for that than last season. I love the cycling and am waiting for the politic moment to invest in a shiny new road bike to replace my faithful but clunky mountain bike. With the benefit of lessons (though I have to admit with shame that I missed a lesson yesterday with a hangover enthusiastically cultivated on Friday night) I am also learning to love the swimming. A bit of swimming goes along way and gives you the most righteous appetite for the bagel and peanut butter kept in the car as a treat. I have even been brave enough to buy myself some proper swimmers, not full on budgie smugglers but what I learn are known as jammers. Girls go crazy etc. As if.

Don't usually get pissed on a Friday but did this week on account of the excellent J&L Golf Society day at The Warwickshire. Plaudits to MH who organised an enthusiastic if unskilled AOE contingent. I'm not always a fan of newish golf courses but have to say The Warwickshire does what it does very nicely. Too good for this occcasional golfer certainly. Drove well, putted well, everything inbetween was comical. Playing again next Friday (AOE day which I organise with NG) and that I suspect will be that for this season. It is probably time to bite the bullet and let my membership at Sutton lapse. I haven't played a single game there this year and on any reckoning that has to be wasteful for an impoverished student, particularly one who wants a new road bike for Christmas  

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Help Me Vince I'm Confused

Vincent Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary this afternoon delivered a conference speech to his adoring fellow travellers. It's sounds like rather good stuff (full text at but I'm a simple soul and there are things I don't understand in amongst all this righteous indignation.

It may surprise some who have doubted my sensitivity that I have no problem with his reference to 'spivs and gamblers' in the banking sector who have strutted away with obscene bonus payments. He's spot on. There's some real low-lifes in the City who have the moral code of rabid jackals. But this is a human problem. Bankers (some of them) earn ludicrously more than is good for them. But so do footballers. In defence of footballers at least they seem to be reinvesting in small British businesses, albeit those of budding prostitutes. But what are we to do - make merchant banking (still one of the best pieces of rhyming slang that) and football illegal? Impose a wage cap? I can feel the lawyer in me salivating at the juicy litigation that will engender - what price Wayne Rooney's human rights anyone? My guess is about eight hundred quid an hour although my instinct on that score is probably out of date by now. But what I am really getting at is this - you cannot legislate to compel human decency. People have to behave humanely because they want to and for want of a better description I'm afraid we'll have to call this a spiritual issue. Which means Richard Dawkins can sling his hook as well. For years I was accustomed to people politely (well mostly) calling me a parasite and I agreed with them but I had to point out that parasites cannot thrive without a host. The host of the lawyer is human rottenness and do you know what, the number of lawyers per head of population just keeps on going up. Wouldn't it be rather wonderful if suddenly we were all redundant? Don't hold your breath.

And back to the sainted Vince. Let's consider an example, let's call him Dave. He's worked hard over the years and has never earned a dishonest crust. He's always paid his taxes in spite of the use to which they are put. Dave has a wife (we'll just call her bloody marvellous) who is a true example of the working class hero if ever such a thing existed. They give to charities but don't make a song and dance about it. They think they're passably good people. Everything they own has been paid for out of taxed income, everything. So quite how, Vince, is it right to seek to tax them again on the value of assets they may have chosen to buy with what the government of the day deigned to let them keep? If Dave wasn't such a model citizen he might well tell you to piss off Vince.

Ooh that's better. By the way I saw the Pope on Sunday which was intriguingly uplifting. I then had a kilo of excellent mussels at Cafe Rouge which was also elevating. As Dave Allen so wisely used to say - 'May your god go with you.'    

Sunday, 12 September 2010

No Bearer Of Burdens Can Bear The Burden Of Another

At King's College London I was tutored in various subjects by a charismatic (too charisamtic for some tastes) New Zealander called Alan Beaven. I liked him and he gave me the first and last high mark I achieved in my ill-starred legal scholarship - there is no false modesty in this, my first degree was a high-water-mark of mediocrity. He will not have remembered me but yesterday he came to my mind. His name rolled up the screeen at the end of United 93 the film about the 9/11 flight retaken from the hijackers by its passengers. Alan was one of those passengers. Take a look at While you are there click on some of the links to pages about the other passsengers. Try Mark Bingham the gay rugby player from San Francisco. These were the representatives of the Great Satan who died that day. Try to get a handle on all of this. Try this as a starting point

And here's another little personal memory of that day. It was rekindled when I watched a documentary last night, 9/11 State of Emergency. Don't worry if you missed it because it's bound to be on next year on the 10th anniversary. The chief air traffic controller spoke of the confusion which reigned, of the thousands of planes aloft above America. A crowded radar confusion of dots was shown. Noone knew which flights were at risk. And I remember that one of those dots on 9/11 contained my wife, flying American Airlines into Chicago. Sharon went off our radar until late that night when the wife of another passenger phoned me to say she was safe, diverted to Canada. My caller's husband had been kind enough to take a list of numbers from his fellow travellers and communicated the list to her to make the happy calls. I sat at home with two bewildered young daughters and my terrified father-in-law as we became very temporary participants in world affairs. By Al Qaeda's reckoning we were none of us innocents and were therefore fair game in their holy war. An Americanism is apt - go figure.  

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Vile Bodies

For the benefit of our regular readers who wonder if Big Fat Pig ever actually does any work when his training regime and general dossing allow, we are delighted to announce that our sister blog The Staging of Vile Bodies now has its first post. Go to and find out more. Or don't. Suit yourself.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Geriatric Wanker's Weekly

This was the nomenclature favoured by Auberon Waugh when referring to that odious organ The News of the World. Their current favoured modus operandi is to gull the witless and vulnerable in the name of under-cover journalism. So we have an eighteen year old Pakistani cricket prodigy entrapped into deliberately bowling a no-ball to aid a supposed betting scam based on a premiss that no sentient bookie would buy in a month of Sundays. Stupid boy of course but it doesn't exactly make you proud to be British does it.

The Piers Principle

For evidence that a talentless preening gobshite can rise and rise; for evidence that there is much wrong with the United States of America; please see

Acupuncture III ... And Training ... And Drinking

There are two great ways of enjoying sport. Best of all you play and then socialise with your teammates and opponents. As an alternative you can watch someone else perform in the company of friends and then socialise (by which I have to be honest I mean drink) anyway. This is generally not as good as playing - thrills are best had non-vicariously. But occasionally you hit upon a truly uplifting dose of spectating as I did last weekend. England - 10 New Zealand - 13, final of the Women's Rugby World Cup. The Black Ferns were enviably controlled and efficient, deserved winners despite three yellow cards justly imposed on them. England were ferociously brave and endearing to the large crowd at the Stoop. We wandered onto the pitch at the end and spoke to the England coach. Gary was disappointed but proud of how the team had played. Too bloody right he was. The whole tournament has been a breath of fresh air and got me looking forward to the new season.

Which brings me to acupuncture. I submitted to some more yesterday and I am going to chance my dodgy calf muscles this weekend having had to cry off last week. My selection of vibrant shirts, two watches, two whistles and yellow and red cards (unused last year) are packed and ready. The Big Fat Ref is back. Actually not quite so fat any more. The training regime has continued on the bike and in the gym and the wobble has diminished. My first remedial swimming lesson beckons on Saturday as a warm-up for the afternoon refereeing. God I wish I were twenty, no make that twenty-five years younger. If I'd known then what I know now I might have been a player not to mention a better husband, father and lawyer. Oh well, shit happens as the personal injury lawyers never say.

Where was I? Oh yes good company. The Overgraduate  thanks  JS, TW, BM and GL who made it such a memorable weekend in that London. Thanks as well to the staff and the beer selection at The Prince of Wales Feathers which is now officially my local when I am in London. It serves beer with breakfast which strikes me as rather civilised for those of us who can handle such things, what one might term morally distressed gentlefolk.   

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Heaven's Gate

I'd had this monumental turkey saved up for ages and finally watched it at the tail-end of my cinemania week. Just how did something so unaccomplished get to be made? It has a reputation for having brought United Artists to its knees. That version of studio history is something of an urban myth but it does make a fitting epitaph for a movie which manifestly got completely out of control. And yet. And yet. There is a kernel of an epic here, lost beyond resurrection thanks to a shameless outbreak of directorial self-indulgence. Somebody had evidently told Michael Cimino that The Deer Hunter was the great American film (it wasn't) and then given him licence to make the even greater American film, the western to cap all westerns. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What we get is a stupefying and  uncontrolled mess. Following the example of The Deer Hunter we have a lengthy establishing coda which bears no narrative relation we can discern to the main plot. John Hurt is a major figure in this opening and this we can tell is somehow 'significant', except that Hurt then disappears from any meaningful participation  bar a couple of unworthy drunk scenes.

It gets worse. Shots are lovingly composed so that you can't see what is going on. The sound goes to Altmanesque extremes to make dialogue inaudible, but Altman's ability to carry it off is missing in action. Having got himself a classical French actress Cimino decides that what he should do with Isabelle Huppert is have her strip off as regularly as possible. But,but,but,but,but it is watchable, like some magnificent slow motion train crash. The possibilities of cinema are all there but none is actually deployed.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Godless And Infidel College On Gower Street

This was how the founders of my own alma mater King's College London described the secular den of iniquity that is University College London. The colleges remain amicable but implacable rivals. Yesterday my daughter Helen formally became a graduate of UCL and the university put on a bloody good show. In fact this graduate of King's felt compelled to admit that the founding fathers of UCL were right and that it is King's which has had to move to become an acceptable modern institution.

Graduation ceremonies are rather more for parents than the graduates themselves. In that monumental potboiler Roots, the father of Kunta Kinte holds his son up to the god moon and cries 'Behold the only thing greater than yourself.' That is how I feel about my offspring. Nothing in the annals of creation can equal them. I hope all parents feel the same.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Acupuncture II

Excellent news, it doesn't hurt. I had to ask if the needles had actually gone in yet. Maybe I was the victim of a cunning oriental scam and in fact nothing had been inserted because I was lying face down and couldn't see the evidence.

Does it work? Who knows. Certainly the massage which followed the needles hit the spot and I felt that some progress had been made. Rather humbling as well to engage in conversation with the needle-wielder who had fled northern China ten years ago to start a new life in the west. If I am to be treated by a charlatan give me a charming inscrutable one. Further medical bulletins to follow.


The dedicated reader will be concerned about my calf muscles particularly as we stand at the dawn of a new rugby season and I am required to referee on Satrurday. All orthodox cures having failed I will in twenty minutes be acupunctured for the first time in my life. Report to follow.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Lord Bloody Prescott

Does anything better sum up the slovenly mess we are in than the three words above? Of course I have never met John Prescott but feel entitled to dislike him on account of his having inflicted his nasty, ignorant, peevish, inarticulate and plain wrong opinions on me for the past couple of decades. If you're reading this Your Lordship here's some advice. Listen to Jim Hood on Radio 4 last Saturday -
Jim Hood is the Labour MP for Lanark and Hamilton South, he may even be a mate of yours. He was serious, courteous and dignified. When, with the exception of your appearance in Gavin and Stacey, were you last any of these? Now I strongly suspect that if Jim and I took up conversation in a bar we would agree on practically nothing but I get the distinct impression that I would respect him. So John (is it ok if I call you that?) please take note that civilised human beings can disagree with you and it is not just because of their class or the bloody school they went to. You are an anachronism and for the record I went to a state school and had my university tuition (first time round) paid by the City of Birmingham, for which I will be eternally grateful. As my side of the social contract I have paid a small mountain of taxes (national and local) on time and without rancour even as my elected representatives have pissed a fair deal of it up the wall. So John while I've got you - if you bump into Vince Cable in the corridors of power please tell him where he can stick his graduate tax.

Overgraduate Confesses Error And Extends The Benefit Of The Doubt

I have discovered that there are two ways of dealing with errors in a blog. The first is what we might call the 1984 method whereby you go back into the blog and edit the original entry thus removing the error from the historical record. This is very tempting but bad. I will confess to succumbing on occasions but only to deal with spelling and grammatical crimes which offend my eye on rereading. The better method is to 'fess up and admit you were wrong.

Which brings us to my blog of 20 August 2010 - How Rude. Factual error - the New Zealand women's rugby team is known not as the Silver Ferns but as the Black Ferns. I have a strong suspicion that the Silver Ferns are the equally formidable netball players. Sorry.

Also on 20 August I criticized the said Ferns for their impolite attitude towards their vanquished opponents. Delighted to report that there has been no second sighting of such boorishness in subsequent games. Perhaps I imagined the original offence.

the talented Mr Street
Big Fat Pig (who exceeded two, yes two, hours in the saddle today - that's bike not horse for those new to these pages - I bet on horses but don't sit on them) is now in a state of ascending excitement about a lads' trip to London next weekend to watch the WRWC final. It will be a weekend of contrasts. On Saturday I am being sent to referee a 2nd XV match at one of my favourite rugby clubs. This, one suspects, will not be one for the faint of heart or sensitive souls. On Sunday we will see the great game played passionately and skillfully but without flabby machismo. We will also hopefully see England win and can then anticipate the elevation to the aristocracy of Citizen Street.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


The girls are all away again but I've been looking after myself better than I usually do in these circumstances because I'm in the midst of one of my periodic fitness fetishes, this time centring around the vague ambition to do a triathlon. In fact it is only the cycling I am doing at present because the swimming will have to wait on the lessons I have booked for September and a calf strain is still keeping me from running. I'm even eating well and enjoying doing a bit of cooking with my trusty wok. Sharon will be amused if she reads that in view of my noted love of cookery television and incongruous absence from the actual kitchen. Current favoutites are The Hairy Bikers on their good-natured food tour of Great Britain.

But it is not all exercise, good food and good sense. I am indulging myself with wine and film, taken together. Thanks to the combined wonders of the satellite dish and the hard disc drive I watched a bizarre mishmash of films over the weekend.
  The Magnificent Ambersons - a film principally famous for not being Citizen Kane which is a pity because it's rather bloody good. That Orson Welles had rather more talent than was good for him.

Next came a film I would not have chosen to watch - Kill Bill Volume II - but it was on the movie channel just as I finished with the Ambersons. I'm afraid Tarantino leaves me cold as a rule, perhaps it's my age. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this quite wry, albeit gory. Perhaps I should try Pulp Fiction again.

Then when Kill Bill had finished came another unlooked for treat, Team America World Police. I had seen this before but had forgotten how ridiculously funny it is. Completely indiscriminate in its targets, it has no political bias that I can detect merely a complete disregard for all that is blithely assumed to be decent. Most excellent.

There is more. Sunday night started with There Will Be Blood. This has pretensions to being a great film. It is not quite that but it is very good - a sort of Giant with balls. Daniel Day-Lewis compelling. I followed it up with another movie that is definitely not great but very interesting - Oliver Stone's Wall Street. Stone has rather more than a penchant for the melodramatic but this is nowhere as silly a film as, say, JFK or as nasty as Natural Born Killers. Michael Douglas' portrayal of the all too believable Gordon Gekko is an impressive realisation of attitudes which those of us who had a glimpse into money markets in the 80s can confirm were prevalent. A certain type of knob-head still regards Gekko as a hero but the famous 'greed is good' speech is generally lazily misquoted and wilfully misread. Watch it and note Gekko's wholly correct denigration of the board of Teldar Paper. I understand Stone's latest effort is a hagiography of Hugo Chavez. Oh dear.

Monday had a very varied menu:
A Man For All Seasons - proof that stage plays can make great films. All young lawyers should be made to listen More's speeches - perhaps then they would understand the morality of legal practice.

1984 - I found this very disconcerting. The actress playing Julia kept taking her clothes off and since I remember her playing Susan in Swallows and Amazons this just seemed wrong.

The Baader Meinhoff Complex - had seen this previously but enjoyed (is that the right word?) it again. A grimly effective evocation of terrorist angst and 70s grime.

No Country For Old Men - an uncompromising and worthy adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel - given how highly I rate McCarthy this is great praise.   

Saturday, 21 August 2010

.... Are Brilliant Mark IV

Maggie Alphonsi. After I first saw her play in 2007 I rather glibly suggested that I had never seen a better rugby player - and please remember that I was present that night in Wellington when Daniel Carter played probably the single greatest game of rugby a man has ever played. Remember also that I played with the incomparable Martin Smith. Yet more, please note that my absolute all time heroes are Tony Neary and Richard Hill, both magnificent back-row forwards. So on this one I know what I'm talking about and I'm telling you there can never have been, pound for pound, a more effective rugby player. Not Michael Jones, not Waka Nathan, not Watcyn Thomas (who incidentally taught my dad to play), not Wavell Wakefield, not anybody. She was stellar in England's imperfect 27-0 win (doesn't that read better than England 0 Algeria 0?) in WRWC last night. The England coach is a recent contributor to this blog and he will know that there is more to come from his team but he needn't worry about his open-side, she's bloody brilliant.

Proper bloody rugby. Not the vainglorious pap of the Super 14. Proper brutal, skillful, glorious, stupid, life-affirming rugby union football. Just like this afternoon's South Africa 22, New  Zealand 29. This was so good that the shit-for-brains who run world rugby will doubtless conclude that we need even more international rugby. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This match was notable because it stood out from the run-of-the-mill tired internationals we usually see.This was due to its venue (Soweto) and its context (John Smit's 100th cap). You can't just order up that sort of atmosphere but you can make it more likely if you leave the audience wanting more. For those who haven't grasped it - less is more.

Now this one pains me a little. Richie McCaw is brilliant. He's also an incorrigible cheat which rather spoils the effect. It's also the reason he's not as good as Maggie Alphonsi. Been said before but is he invisible? Why do referees not just card him at the outset to save everyone a load of indignation? Brilliant. Unloveable.

Another star of the SA/NZ match was Nigel Owens. Brilliant referee. But Nigel, why oh why the white boots? This is an indulgence best left to daft young players, mostly backs one would hope. Gary Street could have carried it off but then again he was a genius.

And finally - prawn curry is brilliant, specifically the one I made myself this evening.

No, Finally finally, cycling is brilliant. Fat Pig did 1 hour 40 minutes on the mean streets of Sutton Coldfield this morning and is feeling pretty bloody smug which is why he's now going to get further stuck into a bottle of wine. Even top grade triathletes have to relax you know. TTFN as JY used to say.