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 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11874406 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 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11878033 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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11726822 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.