Thursday, 29 December 2011

A New Discovery

Timon of Athens. A Shakespeare/Middleton cooperation according to modern scholarship; an infrequently performed piece of the canon; an alienating drama; reportedly Marx's favourite play. Well I watched the generally dependable BBC Shakespeare production this afternoon and I rather liked it. I can see why Marx would have approved. I note that the National Theatre are doing a production next summer and it will be interesting to see what the Hytner/Russell-Beale axis makes of it. Perhaps my mates at Goldman Sachs will get a mention. If I was them I'd get in and sponsor the season pretty smartish. Come to think of it they probably already have. Dumb they ain't.

In The Final Analysis

Anyone can make predictions, but only the brave (such, of course, as your correspondent) are willing to be measured against them. So here is what I said back in January:
Predictions for the year, O wise one, I hear you cry. Well since you goaded me here goes: myriad Liberal Democrats will continue to suffer political altitude sickness, some will ignore advice, look down and promptly fall off and land on Simon Hughes; England will win the Six Nations; New Zealand will finally win RWC again and Richie McCaw will go to heaven where he will immediately be sin-binned by St Peter for entering from the wrong side; I will pull my hamstring again; the Euro will implode/contract; The asset bubble in China will burst and my investment in India (which I keep meaning to make but never get round to) will look wise; Obama and Cameron will continue to refine the art of the platitude whilst doing very little of any import; finally and justifiably I will still be just as bloody cynical by the year end.
How did Ido?
  • All right I admit the Liberal Democrat thing was an easy call but you have to admit they are bloody funny. At least we hear less of St Vince these days, although only because he's become so bleeding tedious.
  • England did win the Six Nations.
  • New Zealand did win RWC. Richie McCaw is still invisible when offside.
  • Hamstring went again. Twice.
  • The Euro is on a marginally slower fuse than I thought but just watch this space.
  • Chinese communism must fail. This is in the greater interests of mankind. India needs to harness the strengths of its democracy to a decent capitalism which does not mimic the greed of Goldman Sachsianism. India remains the world's great hope. America and Russia categorically are not.
  • Obama is a vacuous appeaser of mediocrity. Cameron is less effective. Both will still be in place in a year's time, though do not be surprised if Cameron is free of the burden of coalition.
2012? Well France will win the Six Nations now they have a decent coach. Wales will not be as good as their followers are being encouraged to anticipate. England will be half-decent which will make the appointment of a permanent new coach all the trickier. Anticipate serious civil unrest in southern Europe. My capital wealth will be further eroded by the malfeasance of others. Goldman Sachs will prosper, though hopefully not in India. GB will win 16 gold medals at the Olympics. Our press will charcterise this as failure. Public sector employees will eventually have to accept that their pensions are unsustainable and their industrial action will fail to attract its own Billy Elliot style romanticism - there will be no ballet dancing son of a geography teacher plucking at the heart-strings of the public.   

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Advent 24

It is the best day of the year and all over the world children are waking and asking what will be this year's Overgraduate Advent door 24. Due to the as yet unresolved spot fixing scam Ladbrokes stopped taking bets on the outcome back in July but was it ever really in doubt? It is the Christmas special episode of Fireman Sam. Sadly a stand-alone copy of this work of art is not available on that YouTube thing but a bit of searching finds it five minutes and thirty seconds into the video embedded below.



It only remains for me to wish all our readers a glorious and peaceful Christmas. May your god go with you and the great eagle never shit on your mother's wigwam.

PS. Since I blogged this morning the video has rather mysteriously been taken down. Yet further evidence of the reach of this blog. Somebody out there seems to be very careful of the intellectual property in the Samster. Still the word on the web is that the brilliant Christmas episode can be seen at 6.15am tomorrow on Channel 5. It seems a shame that the highlight of Christmas should come so early in the day.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Advent 23

Here is the Overgraduate's favourite carol, sung by the choir of the lesser King's College, but hey you can't have everything.


Advent 22

Last year's chosen automotive pornography was the unmatchable DB9 but these are straitened times and so we turn our eyes to the more economical field of motorcycling - and here is Overgraduate's Christmas wish list bike: the greatest touring machine in motorcycle history, the Honda Goldwing.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Advent 21

Commercial art includes great advertising. This is the most captivating and enviable (ie I wish I'd thought of it) advertising campaign of recent years.





Simples.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Advent 20

I sit with my glass of cheap cava and I raise a toast to today's icon of human igenuity - la methode champenoise.


Cheers!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Advent 19

I can smell Christmas getting near. Actually I can smell the aroma of a batch of patent Ewing stuffing being prepared in the kitchen. Simply bloody fantastic. A feast on its own, never mind the poor turkey.

For today I wanted to do my favourite novel of the year but on thinking about it, I've read very little fiction this year so bound up have I been in first my final degree assignments and then devilling for a postgraduate proposal on Shakespeare. So my choice is related to one of those assignments (see other blog for full details - recently neglected but soon to be revived) - a very wicked book in some respects but quite beautifully written by one of the twentieth century's undoubted masters: Evelyn Waugh's Black Mischief.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Advent 18

The Royal Wedding. Jerusalem. This was the day that the British (or at least a casually passionate portion of them, bless their cotton socks) unconsciously started to reclaim their constitution in the form in which Walter Bagehot understood it in 1867. You do not have to think this is a good thing (as it happens I do but I'm weird) to be fascinated by it. What, one wonders, might similarly galvanize the Italians? I'd suggest banknotes carrying pictures of Jose Manuel Barosso, a man with all the democratic legitimacy of Sepp Blatter, but rather less charm.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Advent 17

Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated one year ago today. the ignition of the Arab Spring

Advent 16

What has been the Overgraduate's favourite theatrical experience of the year you ask. Well first, thank you for asking. I'm touched. There would have to be several contenders but we come down to three final contenders, all Shakespearean of course.

There was Othello at the Crucible in Sheffield - Dominc West a suitably charismatic Iago and my great friend and all-around good egg Big Willy Macfarlane a fellow audience member and enjoying his first live Shakespeare. In typical Big Willy fashion he completed my evening by afterwards taking me to 'the best pub in Sheffield', whose name I have forgotten but, yes, it was bloody good. God bless you Willy - if happiness is a disease Big W is a carrier.

There was All's Well That Ends Well on a beautiful August evening at the Globe. What a place and then the walk in late sunlight back across the bridge towards St Paul's.

But best of all was Antony and Cleopatra at the Swan in Stratford. This is a magnificent beast of a play, breaking all the rules of unity of time and place. And in it is my favourite character, Enobarbus.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Advent 15

This is an example of the work of Julian Askins. For a lad brought up in Monmouthshire he doesn't half love bright colours. He is important because one of his limited edition prints (not the one shown but Flourish 185/275) was the first picture I ever bought for Sharon. I remember driving through snow to his studio in Ruthin to collect it, a sort of long distance impulse buy. It hangs still on the chimney breast in our study. I love that picture. I feel good about why I bought it and who I bought it for. In among the mistakes and the stupidity one can get some things marvellously right.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Advent 14

You've been waiting for it pop pickers and here it is - the nominated Christmas song. Last year the honours went to the ultimate cheese fest of Wham's Last Christmas. This year we go with The Waitresses classic Christmas Rapping. Man, you can't beat a good titular pun.

Advent 13

Christmas trees. Ours are up - one big natural one and one big artificial one. The lights are a pain and frustration; you can never get the frigging thing straight; the cats will paw the decorations. But they shout happiness at me. Yo ho ho, says the Overgraduate rubbing his curry-fat belly.

Advent 12

I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
Catch The Waterboys performing their classic in the Acoustic Tent at Glastonbury. A truly lovely song.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Advent 11

But you spoil us Mr Ambassador. For today we have a new species of entry in the Overgraduate advent calendar. It is food. Food best eaten when pissed and with roaring good company, just like last night when I had a lamb dupiaza with those two trenchermen TW and BM. I refer of course to the Great British Curry, the proper conclusion to a night on the lash and suitable food to talk both bollocks and good sense to. In amongst the usual rugby club silliness I heard a lot of that good sense talked about the Euro crisis last night and none of it sounded remotely like Nick Clegg.

Advent 10

Groovy man, this is what the other cool cats and I are listening to down at the jazz club cum bistro as we defiantly smoke Gitanes inside the building. Nice cover as well.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Now I'm Getting Bored Of The Whole Bloody Business

This morning I listened to Today on Radio 4 and I gleaned that the chatterati are upset because our prime minister yesterday refused to let us take part in a half-cock rescue plan for a currency we don't even use and have no prospect of joining. Can we please not just get on with letting the whole misconceived project go down the pan before more people get hurt. At least then we can have a stab at getting it right next time. The Chinese must be pissing themselves laughing.

Advent 9


Today an endangered species. No, not my friend the Euro, though please watch this space. No I refer to test match cricket - the absolute expression of a grand game. Only in England is this format still unchallenged as the foremost manifestation of the sport. As in so much else the rest of the world is of course wrong. Enjoy it while we can.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Advent 8

It's a picture. And following last year's pattern it is from our very own National Gallery. And this one is from our very own national painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Rain, Steam Speed, Great Western Railway
J.M.W. Turner 
Can you see the hare? If you see the original it's a good joke to point at the hare as if you're about to touch the painting. The wardens absolutely love that because of course it's an entirely novel joke. Nobody else has ever done it. Comedy gold.

Advent 7

I keep being a day late with these posts which must be heart-rending for those of you who can't count-down to Christmas without me. However I promise to do better from now on. Several distractions have been removed from my path and I can feel the fesivities bubbling up inside me - what an unpleasant image that conjures!

I had threatened some of my own poetry but on reflection this is supposed to be a time of celebration and most of my stuff is rather miserable so instaead we will refer to one of cinema's greatest works. A spectacular historical melodrama containing several of the greatest portrayals in film history, namely those by Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel. What could it be but Gone With the Wind. Don't pull that face, you know you love it really. And if you don't, well tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Advent 6

As promised today we having naming of poets, or rather a poet - fellow Aston Old Edwardian, though of a more distinguished vintage, Henry Reed, who wrote this, perhaps the most renowned military poem of WWII.

NAMING OF PARTS
To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts.
Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the
piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the
almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.
Praps tomoz will be the time to regale ya wit one o me own poems wot ive writ. Praps not.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Advent 5

It is fifty years old. It was hugely influential on my adolescence and early adulthood and I used to re-read it every year until I lent my copy to some bugger who never gave it back. Now I have it on my Kindle and I'm going to read it again over Christmas. It is Catch 22 and this is the cover of the edition I bought myself from the school bookshop in 1975.


Tomorrow we have naming of poets.

Advent 4

For the first Sunday of December we acknowledge a cornerstone of English literature enjoying its 400th birthday this year - the King James Bible. You may very well choose not to believe a word of it but you must surely recognize its beauty.
 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2The same was in the beginning with God.
3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
Tomorrow, a rather different book also celebrating a significant anniversary.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Advent 3

It's Saturday so it must be rugby day. My friends I give you the second greatest try ever scored. Sadly my try against Five Ways Old Eds circa 1985 has not made its way onto YouTube. Next time I see you I'll talk you through it. For now you will have to make do with the incomparable Gareth Edwards.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Advent 2

More comedy. We saw Omid Djalili last Sunday at the Alex. Funny, talented man but will he ever do anything as good as this again?



I'm of the small bursts of energy school but with touches of Warwick PhD student. How about you?

Advent 1

Welcome then my friends to the second annual Overgraduate advent calendar. Thanks to a late return from the rugby club yesterday, I am making the first entry a day late but I promise you this is worth the wait. I give you Britain's funniest woman, Victoria Wood singing her funniest song.



If this doesn't make you laugh, please check your pulse. Now where's that copy of Woman's Weekly?

Monday, 28 November 2011

A little Bit Of Context

I had been on the point of posting a blog excoriating the truly dreadful Sir Alex Ferguson for his vindictive, small-minded and scheming post-match remarks last Saturday when the horrible news of Gary Speed's suicide emerged and quite properly took attention away from the Glaswegian gobshite. Which is the only good thing to emerge from the whole numbing business. Well perhaps not the only good thing if it generates a little more serious understanding of mental illness. We should turn to that famous son of Cannock, an unlikely hero but a man who (and on this I'm afraid I have become an unwilling expert) gets it right when he tackles depression. God bless you Stan Collymore for this articulation,

If your mind is empty, your brain ceases to function, your body is pinned to the bed, the future is a dark room with no light and this is your reality, it takes a massive leap of faith to know that this time next week, life could be running again, smiling, my world big and my brain back as it should be. So what do some do? They don’t take the leap of faith, they address a practical problem with a practical solution to them, and that is taking their own life. And sadly,too many take that route out of this hell.
I’m typing and my brain is full, cloudy and detached but I know I need to elaborate on what I’m going through because there are so many going through this that need to know it’s an illness, just an illness. Not bad, mad, crazy or weak, just ill.
Not bad, mad, crazy or weak, just ill.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Lives Less Ordinary

I have a thing for the talented but overlooked. I suspect this reflects a large degree of deluded wishful thinking about my own place in the grander scheme. No matter, here is an exampe of the sort of thing I mean - read the obituary for Jackie Leven and then track down some of his music - Leven Obituary

Monday, 21 November 2011

Tres Amusant

je ne regrette rien
I don't know why I've not blogged this before because it has been very, very funny since God was n'but a wee lad. The index of the leading quoted French shares is called the CAC 40. Now, I'm sorry but that is bloody funny.
Today the said index of cack shares lost 3.5% of its value. Which has ceased to be either interesting or even remotely surprising. Nor should we be surprised that Michael Heseltine was yesterday telling the Beeb that the Euro remains a necessity and that Britain will some time join it. We should distinguish here between something necessary and something inevitable. The Euro is not necessary but the arrogance and stupidity of the political class may very well make it inevitable. But don't worry, the technocrats have arrived and will lead us to the promised land.

Off to that London again tomorrow to get me some of that city book learning. This means the joy of the early train from Tamworth - actually not too bad and admirably fast, but sadly prone to the plague of inane mobile telephone chatter. What did we do without them? Thought for ourselves that's what and actually had the decency to leave some aspects of our lives inaudible. But despite the noise pollution I will arrive in that London and feel a touch of excitement at its sheer bigness. As the Eagles said in a totally different context,  You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave.
Note to self: when I learn guitar I will play the solo from this. Badly.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Advance Of Le Grand Projet

It suits some tastes to describe Booker and North's The Great Deception as polemic. It is better than that, though undoubtedly partial. At the time of the second edition in 2005 the authors were unwise enough to think that the rejection of the EU constitution in French and Dutch referenda might signal a brake upon Le Grand Projet. This underestimated the righteous momentum of the ensconced bureacracy and the wretched indifference of the populace. So the Trojan horse of the Euro has today rolled into Rome (not a good metaphor but you know what I mean) and Le Projet has bloodlessly carried of its greatest prize - a whole bloody great country, very much the size of Italy, in fact, well, Italy.
A quite large part of Europe
The laughable but duly elected Berlusconi has been despatched to spend retirement with his billions and his pecadilloes. In his place the EU has parachuted in one of its own. No need for anything as troublesome as an election, no what was needed was a technocrat, a safe pair of hands, a man equipped for leadership by past service as an EU Commissioner. Bugger me, what's next, Kinnock, Mandelson or Leon Brittan as our PM? Last one out switch the lights out.

The new Italian PM will be Mario Monti. In 2010, Mr Monti was one of the founders of a European federalist initiative known as the Spinelli Group, which seeks to promote greater EU integration. Other members include former commission president Jacques Delors, former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer and Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Nuff said. Mind you that Europe's going to have a bloody good football team once it's all sorted out.

Our Great Departed

We sing our great departed
Whom none may disallow
Strong souls whose tasks are ended
Sweet voices silent now.
Their memory leads us forward
To still uphold the fight
To strike at wrong and falsehood
And guard the truth and right.

(from the school song of King Edward VI Aston School)

Taken out of context these words might seem rather silly. In the context of the school I attended, a force for good in my own and countless other lives, they are rather fine and I was proud to sing them again last night at the Commemoration Dinner.

Throughout my life the voices of a certain type of progress have been trying to close the school, which provides a particular kind of free education to a particular type of young man. Those voices are pernicious and persistent. They shall not prevail. Italy may fall (of which more anon) but Aston must not.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Being British

Being British is wearing a poppy but not being fascistic about those who choose not to.

Being British is certainly not about this sort of vile nonsense- Muslims Against Crusades

This is British:
Julie Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Britain had been organising a counter-demonstration for Friday.
She said: "In one sweep, Muslims Against Crusades display an unspeakable disregard for the feelings and common bond of our countrymen and women, a contempt and rejection of our hard-earned democracy and its institutions, a disdain for the majority of British Muslims - who do not share their views - and a violation of the example of the Prophet Muhammad."
I have been known to slag off politicians on occasion but plaudits today for two quiet and principled Britons from opposite poles of politics. I just feel well-disposed to men who clearly care and are serious about societal breakdown.
Frank Field -we like him
Iain Duncan-Smith we like him too
Overgraduate is off to make a speech tonight. Will report if all goes well. If not, silent sulking. Bit of Shakespeare, bit of Denning, few crumby jokes. It ain't what they call rock and roll.

Boots are blacked, dress shirt is washed and will shortly be ironed. It's nearly time to take the show on the road. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

What Do We Want?

This is the commencing chant at all good protests. 'What do we want?'  'Full grants.'   'When do we want them?'   'Now.' Those particular details are of course extracted from a favourite demo of my youth, but you get my drift. That particular demo did as much good as a chocolate teapot by the way, but it was better than being in the library - the location of which I never did establish with any certainty.

All of which brings me nicely and a little mystified to the encampment at St Paul's Cathedral. Mystified because the campers lack a pithy message and I find myself unusually reluctant to lambast them. The message seems to be, 'What do we want?'   'Well a variety of vaguely impractical things actually.'   'When do we want them?'   'At some time in the future we would imagine but can we stay here and be on the tele for a while please.'

The major damage achieved by the demonstrators has been to the Church of England which has managed to look even less effectual than usual, quite an achievement in fact. But even here I find myself less entrenched than usual. What precisely could our established church have done other than agonise and vacillate as it has done? Sent in the bailiffs? Admirably decisive but possibly unchristian. Bring them in off the streets and take the lead against capitalism? Definitely decisive, decidedly unchristian, at least as practised by your average anglican. No, my major criticism of the Cof E remains that so few of its ministers actually give off an air of actually believing in God. Oh and Rowan Williams should get a haircut. You wouldn't get a pope looking like that.

Monsignor Fallon
Which brings me to something I should have written a while ago. Monsignor Tom Fallon died earlier this year. He conducted our wedding ceremony. He took my first confession. He officiated at my first communion. He radiated benevolent godliness and I, like thousands of others, viewed him as my priest. They were busing them in from London for his arrival into the church in Hockley. A great and a nice man. Requiescat in pace.

As it happens I did once ask Monsignor about camels and eyes of needles- his answer centred on the need for humility before God and man. What would he have made of the St Paul's protest? He would have sympathised with the protesters and ministered to them. As for the rich bankers working in the City - he would have sympathised with and ministered to them. This strength can easily be mistaken for ambivalence. It is not. In the hands of great men, such neutrality itself is greatness.  

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Je Ne Peux Pas Parler Parce Ce Que Je Mange Mon Chapeau

With humble pie to follow please waiter
Or words to that effect. RWC 2011 (in truth a middling renewal which has never got beyond the spluttering into life stage) has finished with a final in which the goal-kicking was again unprofessionally poor, a factor which allowed the game to be rather gripping. The damned bookies were right and I was wrong. New Zealand are not as good as everyone thought they were - well not quite everyone. I harboured doubts and I think that yet again they peaked between tournaments but this time they were sufficiently better than the competition to get away with it. Good luck to them. England's 2003 team was also past its peak so no crime there. Home advantage also helped, as did some uncharacteristically sloppy refereeing from Craig Joubert in the final. Q: when is a high tackle not a high tackle? A: when it is committed by an All Black.

Anyhoo, here are a few conclusions to be drawn from RWC 2011:
  • South Africa and France - both these countries came into the tournament with a clown for a coach yet might still have won it. It is in the interests of the rest of the world that these two nations remain dysfunctional because if either or both gets its act together then the rest can go whistle.
  • England were dreadful and will remain so for the foreseeable future. There is no will in the professional game in England to prioritise international success. Come to think of it, this is much the same in South Africa and France but they at least have several outstanding players, a luxury not afforded to England.
  • Daniel Carter is a truly great player and without him New Zealand become beatable. That they emerged victorious is testament to their spirit and granite application. I love their attitude to rugby, if not their occasional unsmiling hubris. More than that I applaud their method. For a period they had dabbled with fannying about (let us call these the Carlos Spencer years) but recently they have reinserted steel into their game and competition at the breakdown has become fashionable. They can even scrummage - though not as well as the French.
  • The lawmakers need to do something about the unedifying spectacle (more precisely non-spectacle) of the ball sitting interminably stationary at the base of a ruck. How about a law similar to that applied to the stationary maul - use it or lose it.
  • I'm a big Wayne Barnes fan but how on earth did he and his touch judge not spot the forward pass for Shane Williams' try in the third place play-of? Some things are marginal but this was just blatant.
  • Why do we have the third place match at all? For television's benefit? Ditch it.
That's all folks. I'm off to get some dipping sauce to make my hat taste a little nicer as I resume eating it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Back From The Brink

Read this and be grateful that sense and decency can still prevail - Rugby player ordered to repay compensation

What was this bloke thinking of when he sued the club in the first place? Or more exactly what were the people advising him thinking of, for he is young and clearly unready to handle the intellectual nuance of God's own game.

And what did the damned court of first instance think they were doing when they made the award now overturned? Apart from pushing my beloved game to the brink. So a small bright light today shines in a dark world of prissy stupidity. I have seen the future and it's horrible but maybe this will postpone it long enough to sustain me.The two most important words in the language are - SHIT HAPPENS.They should be taught (in several languages preferrably) to all law students. And judges should have to attend a refresher course of two days' duration at which they are constantly yelled at them before they ever grace the bench. And don't tell me that because all of this is underwritten by insurance it doesn't matter, because that is assinine.

Finally, remember that France will lose heavily on Sunday, possibly embarrassingly so. The Tote are betting 10/11 each side with a fifteen point spread which strikes me as giving it away. I've been wrong before, but this time?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Final Word On That Tackle

This, as you would expect, will be the final and definitive expression of opinion on the Warburton/Roland apocalypse which unbalanced Saturday's RWC semi-final. But before I prove just why Alain Roland was wrong I will apply my forensic eye to some other facts which have gone under-reported in the aftermath:
  • Genuinely great sides have great goal kickers. Wales lacked even a vaguely competent one on Saturday - this cost them a victory over a lamentable French side.
  • Secure tight-head props are gold dust and when Adam Jones limped off it served to highlight quite cruelly how good he is. France can do very little else but their set-pieces are awesome and facing them with an unbalanced front-row was a piece of rotten luck just as horrid as the banishment of Warburton. But, and here Warren Gatland gets off lightly for a former front-row man, the bench should have been better equipped to meet this problem.
  • Lineouts matter and the Welsh went awol in that department. In a piss-poor French side, take a bow Lionel Nallet and the annoyingly great Imanol Harinordoquy.
  • I've girded my loins and ventured into some rugby chat rooms to 'listen' to the vitriol and general garbage. Shame on those who suggest Roland is a cheat and should never have been appointed because his dad is French and he himself has the effrontery to be able to speak French. Grow up you fuckwits. This is rugby football. He's a good referee, though this was an incorrect decision - as I will demonstrate. 
Next ladies and gentlemen of the jury the facts of the case:
  • My client Mr Warburton pleads guilty to having made a tackle which contravened Law 10.4(j) which states, 
  •  (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
  • The referee Mr Roland correctly penalised my client but then applied the disproportionate sanction of dismissing him from the field of play.
  • The referee's employers (IRB) have justified his decision to send-off Mr Warburton by reference to their own directive on the particular isssue of dangerous tackles. It merits quotation in full,
To summarise, the possible scenarios when a tackler horizontally lifts a player off the ground:
The player is lifted and then forced or “speared” into the ground. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle. 
The lifted player is dropped to the ground from a height with no regard to the player’s safety. A red card should be issued for this type of tackle.
For all other types of dangerous lifting tackles, it may be considered a penalty or yellow card is sufficient.

  • My task is a simple one - to show that my client's tackle did not fall into either of the first two categories but rather into the third and that a yellow card at most would suffice.
  • It has been asserted (not least by the minions of the IRB jumping to the defence of their man) that the player's intent in the matter is not relevant. Indeed such wording has appeared in various of their contradictory directives to what they fashionably label 'stakeholders' in our great game. However this assertion flies in the face of the plain meaning of the specific directive quoted above.
  • I think we can all agree that my client's tackle did not fall into the first and most heinous category, what is colloquially termed a 'spear tackle.'
  • Mr Roland's position and that of his employers seems to be that the tackle was in category 2 - the species of tackle where the player is 'dropped to the ground from a height with no regard for the player's safety.' Were this the case then the red card would indeed be the correct decision. It is however manifestly not the case.
  • There are two elements to a category 2 tackle: i) dropping to the ground; and ii) a disregard for the player's safety. Both elements must be present - the word 'with' in the directive can only be conjunctive. No other interpretation is possible.
  • Mr Roland should have exercised his judgement as to whether or not my client disregarded the safety of his victim. I do not believe Sam did so, nor in truth do any objective spectators - from this category I of course exclude Marc Lievremont, the nominal French coach, last seen wandering round Auckland trying to find not only his team (out on the piss comme les rosbifs) but also his marbles. 
So there we have it. Sam Warburton is not innocent. He is guilty but he has been dispropotionately punished. Alain Roland derogated from his duty as a referee if he felt bound by a directive which in truth admits of some discretion. If he did in fact use that discretion and still thought a red card appropriate then this is a lesser crime - all he did was get it wrong and we all do that every time we take the field. Perhaps the greatest sadness is to find the great Paddy O'Brien (arguably the best referee of the lot and now the IRB refereeing head honcho) feeling compelled to defend an attitude which takes judgement away from the man or woman best placed to exercise it ie. the one brave enough to get out there with a whistle.  

Quod erat demonstrandum. 

But it is only a game after all -a game which France will lose by a record margin on Sunday. Bet on it. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Another Sad Little Tale

Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Defence felt compelled to resign this afternoon. Fox Resignation Letters

I pondered this one as I drove home from work. You see what troubles me is that the reason certain elements of our ghastly media were so keen to hound him had nothing to do with his politics and rather more to do with their unlovely desire to whisper very loudly, 'he might be a poof you know.' To which the only proper answer is, so bloody what. But I'm afraid that we have to ignore the ignoble motives of the scum of Wapping and reluctantly concur that he had no choice but to resign. This is the world we have made for ourselves and by its rules he has to go. We have designed a system in which politicians are mandated to be 'professionals', distinct mark you from the wretched amateur, that is to say someone who does the thing for the love of it - someone like, say, a medical GP who abandons his practice to give his soul to public office. Rather like Dr Liam Fox perhaps. A world in which the politicking is the sole preserve of a self-perpetuating expertocracy. A world in which a minister must listen only to those on the state's payroll. A world unfit for any latter-day Michael Heseltine (who always paid his own way in politics) or Dave Nellist (bonkers but utterly admirable trot). A world which finds a serious and dedicated man like Fox unpalatable.

We have been here before. Remember when a bloke called Mandelson got chased out of the government because he had been astute enough to persuade a rich bloke called Robinson to lend him a shed-load of money to buy a property in a rising market. As it happens I was glad when Mandy got the old heave-ho (I was glad each time he got booted) but only because he was so consistently and egregiously wrong on pretty much every issue. It never bothered me where the slimeball raised his money so long as he didn't nick it. But Mandelson should have known the rules of the game, actually he's one of the bastards who wrote them. And so should Fox. And what we should all learn from this is that we should change those rules pretty damned smartish because very soon there will be no interesting or challenging people left in politics. If you want to learn what I mean, find a copy of Richard Crossman's diaries and compare it to the self-serving drivel of the unelected and dreadful Alastair Campbell.

FTSE 100 14 October 2011
But hey look, the markets have recovered again today which must mean I'm wrong about the fate of the Euro. Am I bollocks.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Variation On A Theme

Union over League for me but that should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the best try on television last weekend was the one scored by Rob Burrow in the RL Grand Final at Old Trafford. Catch it at Grand Final Highlights

The old black dog made a bit of a comeback on Sunday, hopefully a mere blip on the road to Wellville, but my old friend Culcha came to the rescue last night. It was 'Make An Aria' night at the Barber Institute and one of the four student writing teams included that promising juvenile librettist known as The Overgraduate. Our aria 'Y Gollyngdod' seemed to get a good reception at its first (last?) public outing so that made me feel pretty damned good. Time to 'fess up now though. Operatic writing may be a collaborative art but take it from this participant, it is the composer who does the bulk of the work. Big respect to Jeremy Clay who took my verbal meanderings and gave them a musical direction that even my tin ear could follow. Because I can't read music much less produce it, the first time I heard the music rendered was as I fraudulently sat on stage with Jeremy for yesterday's rehearsals. As soon as I heard the clamour he gave to my second stanza I could have hugged him. He got it. He got my words and he made them sing. Thank you. Sample some of Jeremy's earlier efforts at his website - and watch that space, the boy has talent. Jeremy Clay

So that's me then - lawyer, librettist, bon viveur,wit. Available for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Reasonable rates. What have you got to lose - aparts from money and any standing in society. I had thought the commissions for an entire new opera would have flooded in today but only silence thus far. Perhaps the answering machine's on the fritz. Yes that must be it. Or possibly wicked tory cuts. Must go, my public awaits.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Overgraduate Changes Nationality

This announcement is selfish and unjustifiable. It contradicts my criticisms of the behaviour of others (see in particular my entry on this year's Heineken Cup Final) and smacks of the kind of inconstancy I find unendurable in others.

For the remainder of Rugby World Cup 2011 I am reverting two generations and will henceforth be regarded as Welsh. My paternal grandfather was a fully fledged Welshman and I now claim my celtic inheritance.

The boy can play
Had yesterday's results gone differently, I might by now be adopting my wife's Irishness or sticking to my unenthused Englishness. As it turns out neither of these outcomes was ever on the cards. A superannuated Irish team was blown away by the Welsh and England were obdurately pedestrian in the face of a French side who don't even talk to their coach but who were in possession of the best player on the field (by a country mile) that proudly unreconstructed git, Imanol Harinordoquy. Reprehensible (exemplar of the fact that being racist about the English is somehow alright - see also Alex Salmond - though he, one imagines, would be a shit No 8 so what's his excuse?) but a magnificent beast of a player. When Imanol gets old I invite him to come and play a season for AOE (he can stay in our spare room) because he'll find we're not all arrogant tossers.

Talking of tossers, it occurs to me that Stuart Barnes is always banging on about international teams having to be developed over the four year RWC cycle blah blah blah. Nothing is ever that simple. As an Englishman I want the representatives of my country to be the best available on the day in question. International sport should be specifically massive at each renewal. Now this general rule is inherently as unreliable as Barnes' but mine has romance in its soul. Which makes it better. In any event the greatest ally of any coach in any sport is luck. Sheer bloody luck. Wales are playing magnificently but is anyone seriously telling me that Warren Gatland's masterplan included finding his fly-half and his No 8 only during the summer warm-up games and that he knew all along that his best side excluded footballers as gifted as Hook, Byrne and Stephen Jones. Luck, sheer bloody luck - but that doesn't mean there isn't a gift in taking advantage of it. Oh and the oldest trick in the coaching manual - fitness, fitness, fitness. The Welsh side have that sheen of ultra-fitness common to champions. They have never had it before, not as a unit. Finally two very good players have rediscovered themselves - Jamie Roberts (who seems a thoroughly good egg) and Mike Phillips (who comes across as a bit of a pikey but no matter). Anyone got a red shirt I can borrow next weekend? Cymru am bloody byth.

And finally the wretched English. Leaderless on the field I'm afraid. Arrogant and unpleasant off it? Mostly not, but Ashton, Hartley and Haskell could do with some PR guidance. Of these three by the way, only Haskell is the full real deal as a player - he has something of the Harinordoquy about him, good and bad. The truth is this - England do not have enough excellent players at present and they have too many good ones to choose from. This same perverse dilemma can afflict French rugby.

Whoever thought up this advert
knew his rugby
Almost certainly farewell to an English sporting great, Jonny Wilkinson. Efficient, dignified, brilliant. Jeff Probyn was fond of saying that you don't retire from international sport, it retires you. Very few disprove this (Barry John, Martin Johnson?) and Wilkinson's humility in the face of his descent will I'm sure be as uplifting as his pomp. The revisionists are no doubt already consigning Wilkinson to mediocrity - this is the English way. Compare how the Irish will treat Ronan O'Gara, a very, very fine player but far lesser figure. Which in a roundabout way brings us to the indiputably great Brian O'Driscoll. Mike Gibson, Tim Horan, Phillipe Sella. I've thought about it and I think O'Driscoll just might be better than all of them, which is quite something. I hope O'Driscoll carries on. Not for his sake but for mine. I like watching him    

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Day on The Road

Radio face
I had a tour of a rather magnificent new cancer facility in an NHS hospital today. My presence there was work related and therefore definitely not the stuff for blogging. However it brought home that you simply can't trust politicians with any story. I strongly suspect this beautiful building would never have been built but for the much derided PFI. Health funding is a lot of things, but simple aint one of them. So let's at least stop pretending.

Driving home from my appointment I listened to that Ed Milliband making his speech to the Labour faithful in Liverpool. Oratory really isn't a big part of politics is it these days. I mean that prize pratt Kinnock was a marvellous platform speaker (and I bet he'd be bloody good company in a bar) but it ultimately didn't do him any good. Hague's good but equally unelectable. Milliband isn't a natural. I don't think it's really his thing but you can imagine he's formidable in a meeting. So his speech started badly - mawkish, sloppy and the usual crowd-pleasing digs at the evil Murdoch who one rather gets the impression had himself hacked Millie Dowler's phone. So far so banal. But as he went on he seemed to be talking about things he actually believed in. There was the germ of a big idea knocking around in there dressed up in a nice soundbite that distinguished between producers and predators. He'd hate me for saying it (actually I think he would just hate me anyway - I'll return to this point) but his central tenet is not that far removed in its ambitions from Cameron's Big Society. British politics is not  a battle between good and evil but between ideals of implementation. Or rather it is for folk like me. Not for Ed.

Radio face
Something struck me about the speech. He hates Cameron. He doesn't just regard him as misguided, he thinks he's evil and dishonest. He would think the same of me. Actually he might not - he might overlook my calumny on the condescending grounds of 'forgive them Lord, they know not what they do.' Well here's the point Ed: I am a big boy, I don't pay the top rate of 50% tax, but it doesn't mean that I must automatically have shit for brains to think such tax is wrong. I don't want you to lift me out of my misery, I'd rather do it myself.

One more thing, banging on about 'vested interests' is all very well but you left one out - organised labour. Organised labour, one of the great British industrial monuments and I say that without a trace of irony. But it is an institution that connived in our nationalised industries becoming businesses run exclusively for the benefit of their employees. Cock-up? Yes largely, though I exempt from that explanation the crazed politburo of the NUT. You see in Ed's world when the left gets it wrong it's a cock-up, when the right gets it wrong it's a conspiracy.

Radio face
Now for a bit of balance. I heard a snippet of George Osborne reacting to the Millispeech. Here was a chance to acknowledge the common ground (a good political move as well because it would have pissed Labour off) and invite a sane debate. So what does he do - he slags Milliband off with what was a response clearly written for him before he'd even heard the speech. A pox on the whole bloody lot of you!

Oh and another thing. Having heard the speech on radio I saw some television highlights this evening and was struck how much more I liked it on the radio. This shouldn't matter but he really does have a classic face for radio. Like Kinnock and Hague. 

     

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Lot Of Things Have Been Worrying Me Lately

Capitalism. It's been getting a bad press and some guilt-ridden liberals have been proclaiming its death. Not so fast lads, not so fast. We're in baby and bathwater country here.

Ken Ofori Atta learned his trade on Wall Street but now plies his trade in the emerging markets of his native Ghana. Here is his diagnosis of where the west went wrong,
What went awry among the frenzy for growth in more mature markets was people losing sight of the fact that someone somewhere has to work hard to make a market and build a business to create real enduring value that goes beyond the bottom line.
That's one of those cartoon light bulb moments if you ask me. Nail on the head job. Getting something for nothing is not a viable basis for an economic system. Nor is a dumb belief in ever increasing growth and exponential rises in values of favoured assets, be they South Sea stocks, property or dotcom shares. Where the system falls down is when the fools and charlatans go unpunished by that system - the currently fashionable term is 'moral hazard.' This simply means getting your just deserts or more precisely your lack of them. (And that is the correct way of spelling 'deserts' - it has nothing to do with pudding.) So when it is deemed politically necessary to bail out banks (and that one could also legitimately be 'bale' out) what would really help would be if the bastards at least said thank you and took a pay-cut. Not because some simpleton like St Vince of Twickenham says they have to but because they realise that such would be the proper (and in fact ironically also the enlightened self-interested) way to behave.

Warren Buffet. People keep telling me what a champion bloke he is. I don't quite buy it. Apparently he thinks 'the rich' (who they ed?) should pay more tax. Well, Wazza mate, here's the news, there's no rule against you paying some extra over to the revenue if you want to. But I also note that you plan to dispose of the bulk of your own spondulicks to the Gates Foundation, presumably (and one might add wisely) because you trust your fellow billionaire (the nice bloke from Microsoft) to spend the readies more sagely than the government. Funy that.

The Euro. Gorgeous George Osborne says we Brits should be worried about the fate of this dishonestly conceived currency. If I'm honest George there's a considerable part of me that doesn't give a stuff. The Euro is the bastard love child of a social-democratic continental elite who have our very best interests at heart, so much at heart that something as petty as the affection of the people for sovereign nations will not be allowed to get in the way of them doing what is good for us. Now I am not so pig-headed as to deny that they might very well have a point. I am of a fortunate generation who did not grow up in the clamour of pan-european war. I respect the motives of men such as Edward Heath who served in a war and were determined that it should never be repeated. I happen not to think that the creation of a European single state is a prerequisite of such peace. Sovereign states have sovereign currencies. The Euro is and always has been a signpost to absoulute surrender of sovereignty to a larger entity. The French think that larger entity is Franco-German. The Germans know it is German but are coming to doubt the wisdom of what they have taken on. Which may or may not be a good thing - that is another debate. But what is categorically not acceptable is the intellectual determination to pretend that sovereignty was never at issue here, a pretence posited on an assumption of laxity/torpor/stupidity on the part of the little people. My hope is that the people are not that lax/torpid/stupid.

Here's a thought - the total sovereign debt of the Eurozone countries is within acceptable bounds if measured against the GDP of that zone. Greece's debt (expressed let us not forget in Euros) is a cataclysmic problem only because it is Greece that has to pay it - can't, won't, fact. If we transpose the problem to the pound zone (let us call it Poundland - geddit?) this would be rather like Gorgeous George saying that our own bonkers debt is not our problem because we have had a look at how it happened and we think Hounslow (or perhaps more realistically Scotland, now there's an even better thought) should pay the whole shebang. Oh no Overgraduate I hear you saying, you're over-simplifying things there. Well yes I am but this is precisely the line that your ubereuroistas (I made that one up) will take (are already taking) to justify greater integration. They will say it is ridiculous to have a currency zone within which the participants do not stand, fall and (here's the rub) tax together. I kid you not, there's a class of politico out there who saw this coming, who welcomed all manner of basket case economies into the Eurozone because it would precipitate a crisis (the scale of it has rather taken everyone by surprise) whose resolution would further the grand project. All in a good cause. So that's alright then. Actually no.

Silvio Berlusconi. I'm beginning to think I must have imagined him. He can't be real. But he is and so is Ed Miliband, which possibly worries me more.

My right hamstring. It's pissing me off.        


Monday, 19 September 2011

Some People Just Don't Get It

The Eye is apparently 50 years old. Happy birthday. I'm not a regular reader but I regard Ian Hislop as something of a national treasure - certainly more worthy than Stephen Fry. This is what Roy Hattersley thinks of Hislop's organ,
"public schoolboys laughing at the world outside the dormitory… at the expense of the peccadilloes and pretentions of lesser mortals".

It does strike me that earning the opprobrium of so arch an inverted snob as Hattersley is a mark of greatness. Roy mate, I didn't go to public school (though some of my best friends etc) and I find it funny. As we say round these parts, get over yourself you knob.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

... Are Brilliant Mark VIII

Masterchef Australia. I may have mentioned this one before. This is addictive and warm-hearted television. The saviour of reality television. Leaves the British version dead in the water. Catch it on UK Watch - a great advert for council house tele. There is a certain sort of programme I am never enthusiastic about watching but which captivates when it is on. This exemplifies the category. It is on as I type. One can smell the bread they are baking.

Next up is one of the heroes of English rugby. Phil 'Raging Bull' Vickery manages to be expert and unassuming in his role as colour commentator for ITV in its RWC coverage. During Wales' heroic but somehow predictable defeat to South Africa Vickery was unstinting in his praise of the Welsh. Above all else he did it with a sincerity the English can struggle to attain. Matt Dawson might take note.

Saw this in London last week with Mum (her present from Players for directing Little Women). This is not as good as the wild publicity suggests - it's better. Sentimental, yes. A little predictable, perhaps. But by a mile the best puppet show since Thunderbirds. Please see War Horse. Do not wait for the Spielberg film (The Overgraduate eschews the wrteched prevalence of the term 'movie') which will at best be different and, more probably, a travesty. It will dismiss any doubts you may have about the relevance of theatre. It does things which no other medium can handle. Standing ovation from the matinee audience - no mean feat given your average age in a matinee crowd. I felt positively juvenile.

That London. Home of the world's most honourable university. Our own city state and whether the rest of us like it or not, Britain's greatest hope of economic revival. I can even detect a vibrant dillapidated charm in the underground - a system which throbs with purpose if not with beauty. I also love having an Oyster card.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Dubious Art Of The Possible

Today's news (Tripoli aflame) prompts a not terribly original pictorial speculation on the nature of our two electorally most successful prime ministers. Here they are exercising their art.

 Tomorrow: peace in our time.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

The State Of The Nation

A bonfire of our vanity
My regular observer the ever reasonable Viper John last week commented on my strange silence on the recent riots. What can one usefully say? Not much. At these moments I feel estranged from my native land. As far remote as I was from the cultish hysteria at the time of Diana's death. These polar opposites of behaviour share roots in self-indulgence. Rather like writing a blog you might say. Except my blog is not foisted on anybody. It does not push its way forward and bleat its sense of entitlement. It exists but only if you want it to.

Bosting little theatre
But an antidote was administered on Tuesday evening. I was in that London learning how to be a lawyer again (CPD - dread initials standing for compulsory Continuing Professional Development - a compulsion that has made some men rich and most lawyers none the wiser) and had a fallow evening to fill. This I did with a trip to The Globe to see All's Well That Ends Well. Deep breath, pause for thought, here comes a big statement: this was the best Shakespeare I have ever seen and, by way of being an English student and the son of an English teacher, I've seen quite a lot. It is far from a perfect play but the production, the venue, the weather, made it an unmitigated joy. Walking back across the Millennium Bridge afterwards I encountered that occasional certainty that this was a night I would not forget. I wish Sharon had been there with me, though it has to be said (she would say it herself) she doesn't really do Shakespeare. As that great Midlander Shakespeare might very well have said himself, 'You gotta go to the Globe - it's bosting.'

Severe blow-back
So that was a good thing. Such that I decided to treat myself to a bottle of plonk from the Sainsbury's Local opposite my hotel to toast my elevated mood. This I would accompany with a bag of posh crisps and some chicken thighs, for dinner had I none. Thus equipped I lay on the bed and watched the Sky News coverage of two foreigners pissing hopelessly and self-damagingly into a very strong headwind. They are pictured above, poor misguided souls. As usual it took the boys in the City a couple of days to cotton on to the implications of this grisly spectacle, but sure enough the FTSE has duly gone south today. You ain't seen nothin' yet boys. But me, I'm happy. The rugby season nears. I took the dream machine out for a pedal earlier this evening and made good time without any physical or mechanical mishap. I have a glass of claret. Acrobat by Maximo Park plays in the background. Don't let the bastards get you down Dave, that's the secret.

     

Friday, 12 August 2011

Fellow Alumnus

As I write, England continue to cane India at cricket in an insistent and faintly un-English manner. England Bat India Into Submission . Already, in a much more English manner, the experts are opining that this is because India (officially the world's highest ranked team) are rubbish. Which judgement I heard expressed yesterday on the radio in a witty and politically incorrect jibe from my fellow BCU Eng Lit alumnus Frank Skinner,
India are disappointing. They're even worse than Pakistan when they're losing on purpose.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Observations From A Summer Sunday

Satnav said it would take 2 hours and 7 minutes to drive to Bath. This was miraculously accurate despite a traffic jam on the outskirts.

Parking in Bath is fearsome dear - £10 for smelly Stygian doom on the sabbath afternoon. Still it was hard enough to find a space to suggest that the burgesses and aldermen of Bath may have got this one about right.

Some lager louts in Cheapside
A ten minute walk to the Theatre Royal, illuminated by directions given to me by an amused street cleaner, pointing up the road, 'That's it mate.' And so it was, most palpably a theatre. A very fine Georgian theatre in point of fact, running an impressive unsubsidized programme. I had reserved the same seat for both parts of my Shakespeare marathon, F12 in the Upper Circle, cheapest seat in the house. A good start: summer Sunday theatre is obviously not so popular that they can sell out so I was upgraded to the Dress Circle where I baggsied an aisle pew and stretched my legs for the enjoyable duration of Henry IV Part I.  This is a very fine play, its structure following the two young Harrys, Hotspur and Prince, in alternating focus but not having them meet until their fatal confrontation at the climax. Overarching all of this is Falstaff. I'm not entirely sold on this as one of the great Shakespearean roles. Too much scope for hamming it up. Which, of course, is something I would never do.

... but with large fries and black coffee
Between the shows I sheltered in KFC and enjoyed the Boneless Banquet meal, 40p extra to super-size my fries and my coffee. I like KFC but it is a black mark that they serve Nescafe and not decent coffee.

Overheard in the bar back at the theatre, a posh bloke talking about 'our place in Normandy.' One elderly member of his party quietly interjected that he had never been able to face going back to Normandy having arrived there in June 1944 in a landing boat. All he remembered was the smell of human fear. The posh bloke sensibly allowed the subject to change.

Another upgrade, this time to the Centre Stalls. Tres satisfactoire. Part II is really Falstaff's play and his rejection by Hal at the end is a brilliant scene. I think the modern tendency is to feel sympathy for the old wretch but we should also admire Hal's raising of himself to fit kingship. A point of Shakespeare is that, rather as Enoch Powell predicted for political lives, all kingships end in failure. Henry V's dissolute youth may be instrumental in his mature grace but that good grace presages only a bloody succession. Henry accepts that he must aim not to fail while always knowing that failure is inevitable. This is the burden of divine appointment.

Overheard during the interval: 'His second wife is dreadful ... And she sings abysmally .. but then the Welsh always do.'

Observed during the interval: a relatively ancient transvestite a good four or five inches taller than me, demurely sipping a white wine and in earnest conversation with a woman I took to be his wife. Not an eyelid could be heard to bat. The English are bloody marvellous sometimes.

Journey home broken by a chicken tikka pasty break on the motorway. Chicken tikka is as English as the Bard.

If you get the chance to see the two parts of Henry IV together, steel yourself, dose up on strong coffee and go for it. You will be lucky to see productions as fine as the Peter Hall ones I caught on Sunday, but you will be most unfortunate if you don't enjoy it. Trust me, I'm a lawyer.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

World Wakes Up But Rust Never Sleeps

Even as I penned my little piece yesterday, it seems somebody was coming to the same conclusion - see Standard & Poor's Downgrade US Debt

But there is a price to be exacted for such smart-arsery. Iron Dave set off on his long training run after writing of his impending triathlon, the South Coast Olympic Tri to be exact, But bad news sports fans, ID will not now be appearing at Seaford next Saturday because 37 minutes and 20 seconds into a very satisfactory outing the bloody calf muscle went again. Iron Dave is rusty and we may have to conclude that there is no cure for this condition. If he were a horse he would be put down.

Solace has been at hand however. One can take for granted the small beauties on one's doorstep. Today I took my ancient mountain bike for a lengthy spin in Sutton Park and the world became a better place. This afternoon I have rodded the drains, always a most satisfying distraction for the desk-bound alpha male. For connoisseurs of these things, I used the claw attachment because I was trying to locate a blockage between house and inspection chamber. Caustic soda has also been involved in this little project. Fun, fun, fun. Which, in a markedly different way, I am also hoping will be the case tomorrow when I travel to Bath for a Shakespeare mini-marathon - Henry IV Part I in the afternoon and Part II in the evening. Follow these very wise words,
Brush up your Shakespeare
Start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.

That's all folks.


 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Wage Slavery

Last week I received my first payslip since April 1988. Qu'est ce que c'est le PAYE? Is this part of the global social democratic conspiracy? I've been rather more used to paying my tithe in lumpy sums in January and July.

Those twenty years of self-employment (succeeded by the Dave the Student Part II years of self-unemployment) had worn away memories of the good and the bad sides of working for the Man. The good side: you are contracted for set hours and the buck stops - over there; you get a fixed reliable income; membership of the masses; anonymity. The bad side: lack of ownership (all the guff about 'stakeholders' is so much Blairite bollocks); lack of excitement; anonymity; PAYE. Mind you I'm quite glad to be out of the enterprise community (or whatever it might fashionably be termed) in the current conditions: countries that can't/won't pay their debts; America dumbly failing to grasp that for the first time in its history it has a socialist president; banks that won't lend to anyone; America agreeing that it's in order to borrow $17trillion (wtf is a trillion anyway) on the never-never; Vince Cable bearer of the greatest misnomer in politics, 'Business Secretary'. Suddenly wage slavery doesn't seem so unappealing. Oh and for the past couple of days we have had capital markets in free-fall because the chinless wonders of the trading floors have suddenly twigged what the rest of us knew aeons ago, that there is no puissant political will to sort the mess out. But there is always good news if you look hard enough. Danny Baker was the deserving castaway on Desert Island Discs this morning, an accolade richly earned and a nice change from the self-serving bums more usually featured.

Triathlon: Iron Dave's day of destiny looms and ID is not ready. He has not done enough swimming. Or cycling. Or running. He has had two punctures in eight days. A spoke broke on the rear wheel of the dream machine. ID has a week to put all of this right, which cannot, of course, be done. Discretion is the better part of valour but stupidity is the better part of Dave. No more Doctor Faggot.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

They Will Never Learn

This bloke used to be Prime Minister and is now engaged in saving the world. Blair Still Favours Euro. Read also the linked Independent europhile liberal hand-wringing lunacy. There will be blood.

WTF

It is the Saturday of the Lord's test, the incomparable Sachin Tendulkar is batting and even the most diehard Englishman wills him to make a century this afternoon and thus fill one of the few voids in his career record. At the same stage I turn on 5 Live to seek an update on the endlessly fascinating Tour de France. What do I get? Scottish Premier League football commentary. It's 23 July you idiots, what are you thinking of?

How Not To Behave

Tiger Woods and Steve Williams - was there ever quite so charmless a pair of plonkers. Now that nice Tiiger has sacked poor little Stevie and said Stevie has thrown his rattle out of the pram - a pram, indeeed a rattle, paid for by the sporting world's most infamous lothario - Pair of Plonkers. Shit give I none, as my old Jedi master used to say.

How To Behave

Rarely has a sporting outcome given me such pleasure as Darren Clarke's victory in last week's Open Championship. Skillful, smiling, modest and magnanimous, it seems that good guys do sometimes win. A word also for the two Americans who shared the runner-up spot - Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were impeccable and charming in the glare of defeat. Top stuff.

Travelogue: Postscript

Been home a week now and it's been a long week but more of that to follow.

The Tenth Circle of Hell: Miami International
The previous entry was scripted at San Jose Airport as we bid our farewells to Costa Rica - and despite the first impressions (involving flagrant thieving bastardy) those farewells were genuinely fond. But the holiday had its last few little tricks to play on us and these principally involved our established enemies, American Airlines and Miami International Airport. American managed to bollocks up the check-in process at San Jose so that we damn nearly missed our connection at Miami, while the staff at Miami (with a couple of  honourable exceptions) did their level best to compound the error and force us to spend another unwanted stopover on their grubby floors. The place is an unmitigated shithole devoid of any charm or redeeming semblance of organisation. As you stand in the unregulated queue to clear Immigration (as you have to do even if merely transitting - what the hell is that about?) you can see on the wall of the holy land on the far side a welcoming photograph of the Commander in Chief himself, St Barack of Obama. If he's got any sense he'll tell them to take it down rather than pollute his brand by association with the wilful intransigence and rudeness. Miami International Airport is state owned.

A small note of thanks to the caricature foul mannered Frenchman sitting next to Sharon on the plane who took such umbrage at her quite reasonable need to visit the facilities just once in a nine hour flight. His own bladder control was I suppose admirable though it is quite conceivable that he had simply taken the expedient step of pissing himself. Smelt like it. Anyway, many thanks monsieur, it is a pleasant distraction to have racial stereotypes reinforced during a transatlantic flight.