Tuesday, 30 October 2012

At Last A Sane Moderate Voice

Please click the link to hear the brilliant, multilingual, sane socialist Gisela Stuart speaking about the UK's relationship with the EU. We euorosceptics are not all barking mad you know. Mind you the next one who calls me a socialist better watch his back.

a still small voice of calm

Friday, 26 October 2012

... Are Brilliant Mark XII

How bloody clever
This one occurred to me as I crossed between car park and theatre in Stratford a couple of weeks ago. Locks - as in the confined sections of rivers or canals where the level can be changed for raising or lowering boats between adjacent sections. Bloody clever.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty
This next one may seem unlikely for chap who so prizes words but there's a man-made scheme I've always thought utterly brilliant and which is all about telling tales with numbers: double entry book-keeping. The first time it was shown to me (ironically as part of the old, and I have to say lamented, Solicitors' Final Examination Course) it just struck me that this was, as Keats might have put it, a thing of beauty.

Wise guy
Martin Scorsese. I have just listened to an old Film Programme podcast of his interview with the estimable Francine Stock and it sent me scurrying to my notebook with a note to revisit The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp because any recommendation Scorsese makes must be worth following.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What I Did On My Holidays. Day 4.

A quiet day to finish this too short break on account of Sharon feeling under the weather. Still it's an ill wind etc and it gave me the chance to start learning lines for An Inspector Calls. Also the opportunity to read some more of Atlas Shrugged (don't condemn me yet - judgement to follow in the fullness of time) and to listen to the download of a BBC production of Inspector. 

In deference to Sharon's health we shelved the Pol Roger for a more auspicious occasion and went to the cheaper end of the cellar, well it's the garage actually. I did however do what will doubtless be the final barbecue of the season. The primeval thrill of open fire cooking is yet more exaggerated by the fall of darkness over the flames. Show me the power of man's red flower, as King Louis so astutely demanded in the canonical Jungle Book, Disney version not Kipling natch, though family lore has it I read the latter when little more than a foetus.

We're so retro darling, you know we even have a VHS player at our country estate and it was on this venerable machine that we watched Wilde, a copy of which would appear to have been lying unwatched for a decade and a half. Not bad actually, the first half too fragmentary, the second (once the odious Bosie appears on the scene) more compelling. Stephen Fry very good as Wilde but the revelation to me was Jude Law, commandingly loathsome as Bosie, capturing what Roger Ebert describes as the character's 'fatuous egotism'.

Caught a nice line while station hopping yesterday on the way to the bottle bank (we have a gold account) - 'Me, a narcissist? If I was a narcissist I'd be the first person to know about it.'

Monday, 22 October 2012

What I Did On My Holidays. Day 3.

Middle age brings an ability to be excited by the mundane. So it is that the delivery of  a new fridge to the Roberts' coastal estate was yesterday's big news. It completes the refurbishment of the kitchen undertaken by my own artisan hands. The walls are magnolia (it looks better than it sounds) and the panelling is a brighter shade of green than Sharon would have chosen but I was alone in B&Q when I made the choice. The piece de resistance is the new floor - self-adhesive vinyl tiles which, if I say so myself, look rather bloody marvellous.

But the fridge is not all that happened yesterday. I played golf - nine holes (for that is all there is) at Baron Hill Golf Club in Beaumaris. I am considering taking up country membership. I hardly ever play these days but the price, typically of this blessed island, is far from ruinous and the occasional holiday dalliance with the stupid game might be welcome. The course is apparently the oldest nine hole course in Wales and it is rocky, hilly, charming and suitably forgiving to what I now am - a duffer prone to unlikely outbursts of competence.

I took this from the Overgraduate chopper yesterday.
It took me ages to paint those white lines on the golf course. 
 Chilean sauvignon blanc again yesterday while watching the excellent Homeland. Tonight,  barbecue with Pol Pot's friendlier younger brother, Roger.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

What I Did On My Holidays. Day 2.

Shaz and Dave on the Orme
 The Great Orme. Even better views than Portmeirion and these are absolutely free if you take on the mildly strenuous task of walking all the way to the top. Alternatively you can be a day tripper and take the cablecar or the tram or even drive up. You should walk. I prepared for our expedition by eating a generous portion of Llandudno seafront cod and chips which is no doubt what Hillary and Tensing scoffed before they set off up Everest. There are several paths up the Orme. Take a circular route by following a different one down and thereby make sure you get to take in the views both east and west.

Chilean sauvignon blanc with tea. Very acceptable.

What I Did On My Holidays. Day 1 - Evening.

We have acquired a bargain box set of twenty Woody Allen films so happily watched Manhattan again. I say again but I don't think I had actually watched this since seeing it at the cinema back in 1979. It had not inspired affection in me whereas many other Allen films have done so. I think I've detected the problem - it's not Annie Hall, a film which has massive emotional resonance because Sharon and I saw it on our first date.

Anyway, I suspect I enjoyed it more this time around. It still isn't Annie Hall but it doesn't set out to be. It is not Woody Allen's fault that you only go on one first date. Less whimsical, it is Allen's paean to a city he loves and the conflicted people who live there. It is funny but not as pressingly so - mind you it has several treasurable Allenisms - at one point he credits Diane Keaton's character with winning the Zelda Fitzgerald award for emotional stability. The black and white cinematography is stunning and the insistent score is key. Not one for the top fifty (which I promised to foist on you ages ago and still haven't done) but definitely worth catching.

We had pasta and garlic bread for tea washed down with cava. I recommend this as well.

Friday, 19 October 2012

What I Did On My Holidays. Day 1.

Rhod Gilbert puts it best, 'Come to Wales ... it's not shit any more.'

We spent today at Portmeirion, Clough Williams-Ellis' bizarre and lovely folly. Not one building but more than forty perched beautifully on a private peninsula.

Williams-Ellis worked on the site from 1925 to his death in 1978, fitting this consuming hobby around his professional practice as an architect. Before he acquired the site he had found time to serve in the Great War, winning the M.C. in the Tank Regiment. He lost his only son at Monte Cassino in the second War. I also note that he had attended Oundle School thus proving that my dear friend ViperJohn was not the first glorious nutter to grace that hall of academe. 

Portmeirion is not pristine. It has an air of getting-by rather than profiteering and is an antidote to the Disneyfication of architectural whimsy. The architecture adds to the scenery rather than seeking to overwhelm it. There's lovely.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Lions Led By Donkeys?

"Don't worry, all we have to do
is seem less preposterous than
Harriet Harman and John Bercow.
Piece of piss"
David Cameron is a muppet. Ed Miliband is worse. Nick Clegg is a tosser. That's it for the in-depth political analysis. Really though, I, like millions of others, have paid my taxes and (relatively speaking) behaved myself and now I get governed by a complete shower of shit. What happened? Consider these two chapters of utter incompetence both born of the Boy Cameron's desire to seem in touch. Act your IQ not your shoe size you muppet.
Killing burglars is cool
Gas price shambles

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

You're 'Aving A Larf

Tomorrow belongs to me
They do these things to wind me up I'm sure. A couple of years ago I observed that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by reason purely of not being George W. Bush. St Barack at least had the decency to seem mildly embarrassed by the episode.

Now the august judges have gone much further and awarded the prize to the European Union whose unelected President the Great Potentate Baron Jose Manuel of Barroso has signally failed to display any Obamaesque unease at this award. One does have to have a giggle at the thought of the spendthrift EU being on the receiving end of a million oncers from the Nobel committee. I bet it lasted all of a couple of seconds.

And if the EU got the award for, let us say, not being Communist Russia or perhaps, whisper it only, not being Nazi Germany, then might it not have been better directed to that greater buttress of European peace, NATO?

But what do I know and who is John Galt?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

God Bless America ... Oh And James Naughtie As Well

It is hardly a novel observation that America is a frustrating contradiction. I veer from railing against its inanities (of left and right, of Obama and Ryan) to recalling how it welcomed my twenty-one year old self and tilted me gently towards manhood. Its sense of possibility is compelling and through all my world-weariness it again dragged me back to hope last week.

I sat in the corner of the Arden Hotel last Friday, a lone theatre goer, cradling a glass of sauvignon blanc (favoured pre-theatrical beverage) and passing the time before a performance of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. As with most poseurs I had as company a book of poetry - you know that game you play when you sit in a public bar and pass judgement on the other customers, well for others in the Arden last week the mot juste would have been wanker. So there I was, the wanker reading poetry, when America came riding over the hill like the cavalry. Frances E. W. Harper was the daughter of freed slaves and used her poetry to advocate racial equality. As with all the best writing, this lends itself to appropriation:

"Bury Me in a Free Land"

Make me a grave where'er you will,
            In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill;
            Make it among earth's humblest graves,
            But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
            I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
            His shadow above my silent tomb
            Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

 I could not rest if I heard the tread
            Of a coffle gang to the shambles led,
            And the mother's shriek of wild despair
            Rise like a curse on the trembling air.

            I could not sleep if I saw the lash
            Drinking her blood at each fearful gash,
            And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
            Like trembling doves from their parent nest.

I'd shudder and start if I heard the bay
           Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey,
           And I heard the captive plead in vain
           As they bound afresh his galling chain.

If I saw young girls from their mother's arms
            Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
            My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
            My death-paled cheek grow red with shame.

I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might
            Can rob no man of his dearest right;
            My rest shall be calm in any grave
            Where none can call his brother a slave.

I ask no monument, proud and high,
            To arrest the gaze of the passers-by;
            All that my yearning spirit craves,
            Is bury me not in a land of slaves.

Download at iTunes (other systems
are available, but I don't know how
to use them)
So that's America dealt with. Next James Naughtie. He did a model interview with the Prime Minister on Radio 4 this morning - catch it if you can because even the assiduously fair-minded Naughtie got frustrated with Cameron's smooth evasions. But it is not Naughtie as political interviewer I want you to revel in. No, I want you to download as many podcasts of Book Club as you can. I have just listened to J.G. Ballard and Philip Pullman in quick succession. That is why I pay my licence fee.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Anti-Golf

I have avoided the subject of the Ryder Cup for a week now. So here are some observations/reservations.

Ryder Cup aside can anybody point me in the direction of popular european unity?

Magnificent as the moment may have been why did Martin Kaymer not first shake his opponent's hand before leaping into the arms of his teammates? The other way round and there would have been grumbling.

What had happened to the rough at poor old Medinah? Does a great golf course really need to be emasculated to accommodate a long slugging cum putting contest? Sublety used to be one of golf's great markers.

All of which sounds a little carping. So finally I will say this: bloody great television (despite that awful twat Rob Lee - has there ever been a greater contrast than between him and the peerless Ewan Murray?), bloody great sport, simply bloody great.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Emptying My Notebook

A thing I do regularly is to vow to keep a notebook close at hand and to write down thoughts and various bons mots. I follow up the vow by acquiring a notebook and keeping it close at hand. I then write down thoughts and bons mots. I then lose the notebook. Later I find the notebook by which time I have moved on to a new notebook and can no longer remember the significance of the older thoughts and bons mots. By this routine you and I miss out on some of my best stuff. I cling to this conclusion as a means of preserving what scarce sanity I have.

Today is one of those finding days and I will try to make sense of some of the assembled thoughts and bons mots. Because I love you. Almost as much as I love me.

Toy Story 3 in 2D. This note must refer to having seen the final episode of the franchise without the need for comedy spectacles. Attentive readers will recall that I raved about it when I saw it at the pictures. Well, the new technology is not a necessary part of the enjoyment of this beautiful film. Wondrous. Tear-jerking.

Joe Walsh. This can only have been scrawled on a night when I was uttering one of my favourite lines - 'life's been good to me so far.' Which, when all's said and done, it has. The song from which it is taken is chock full of great lines, for example, 'I go to parties, sometimes until four, it's hard to leave when you can't find the door.' Here is the whole thing from YouTube with the lyrics more or less accurately transcribed.


Cutting Grass. Can only guess that I had just cut the grass, something I enjoy inordinately. A petrol mower is in my estimation one of the great things that a chap should aspire to own. I have this year devised a new pattern of cutting which gives the impression of a wider cut. I think this rather clever and may patent it, hence no photograph until I have cleared it with my patent agents. Here is a poem about grass cutting which attracted a rejection slip (on good stiff card God bless them) from The Spectator.

4-3-3: Cup Final Saturday 2010

(11 May 2010 – David Cameron forms a coalition government;
15 May 2010 – Chelsea-1; Portsmouth-0)
On Cup Final
men unite

to watch the game
and all that
goes before

it. That at least
is what I

from days when my
was alive

to administer colour television
and distribute conspiratorial beer
whilst speaking in
awe of the

Goalkeeper in

All trace of romance and enjoyment has
now been betrayed. In the spirit of the
New Politics today I cut the grass

I could eat a baby with a scabby head. No idea who it was I heard say this but it makes me laugh now and out of context.

Catches win matches. I will have written this down while watching England's wholly inadequate attempts to beat South Africa this summer. The inadequacies have all become rather obscured by the activities of the inexcusable (but soon to be excused) Kevin Pietersen.