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.