Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Advent 24

And so my friends we reach the end of our trail. I do not pretend that these have been the finest two dozen films ever made but they are twenty-four that are important to me. Nine have been comedies; four are epics (a designation I reserve for films over my arbitrary minimum of three hours); six are in black and white; two are musicals (if you count Mary Poppins); two are cartoons (again counting Mary Poppins); one is a documentary; two are sub-titled; three are children's films (Mary Poppins again again); nine are comedies; two are written and directed by Orson Welles which tells you what I think of him; None are by Martin Scorsese which is probably wrong but hey ho.

Toady we have the ninth of those comedies. For the very best of reasons it occupies the final page in our list. It is a fine film but above all else it is the film Sharon and I saw on our first date. This then is my Christmas present to my favourite human. Annie Hall.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Advent 23

Halliwell's Film Guide gets The Philadelphia Story spot on, "Hollywood's most wise and sparkling comedy."


Sunday, 22 December 2013

Advent 22

Only three days to go and now we're down to the really good stuff. And of course no list of films is complete without a three and a half hour documentary about American high school basketball. Hoop Dreams is a dissection of the American dream and has a twist at its end that you wouldn't believe if it was fiction. Highly recommended.


Friday, 20 December 2013

Advent 21

I'm off to the World Darts Championship tomorrow (report will follow) so I'm doing tomorrow's film a day early. It is the only musical on the calendar. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Politically correct it may not be but the singing and dancing are brilliant and as for Howard Keel, well what a dude.


Advent 20

Oooo it's nearly Crimbo and we're getting down to the really good stuff in the advent calendar.

You know how it is with cliches - there's a good reason they become cliches. It's because they contain more than a germ of truth. So Citizen Kane is great film; it is  a very great film; it is the greatest film ever made. All of these are cliches - I would only dispute the third of them and that only because I haven't seen enough movies to make that call. So for the second time in this year's calendar it's Orson Welles, Orson bloody Welles.


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Advent 19

More bloody subtitles, more bloody foreigners but bear with me. This film is utterly brilliant, a mesmerising cocktail of fantasy and brutal real life. Just because you 'don't like fantasy' is no reason not to watch this. Pan's Labyrinth transcends genre and is plain and simple one of the very greatest films ever made - trust me I'm a lawyer.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Advent 18

Today another film in black and white and all the better for it. Throne of Blood is cinema legend Kurosawa's adaptation of Macbeth. Be bloody, bold and resolute and track it down.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Advent 17

This is a film about an American war in Asia made during a later American war in Asia. The locus in quo may be Korea but it was difficult back in the 70's not to view this film through the prism of Vietnam. M*A*S*H* is cynical and subversive in the extreme but pulls this off with an acerbic wit. Its influence as a film is akin to the influence Catch 22 had as a book. It really is that good.


Monday, 16 December 2013

Advent 16

I have been jokingly chided by daughter number two for mentioning her sister when I chose The Jungle Book. So this one today is for you Rachie, a film whose qualities were trumpeted by you and your sister: the brilliantly weird and equally funny Napoleon Dynamite, the film that teaches us that girls only want boyfriends who have good skills ... like nunchuck skills. Priceless.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent 15

And now for something completely different. Where The Railway Children is wholesome and understated, National Lampoon's Animal House is amoral and brash. But it is very funny and it inspired  a fashion for toga parties in the time of my first student incarnation, an age when we were paid by the state to be educated but dissolute. Golden days. Well some of them.

Advent 14

Today we have a film of intense warmth and fuzzy feelingness. Only the stoniest heart is not moved when the steam clears at the end of The Railway Children and 'Daddy, my Daddy' has returned. Tomorrow will be something of a contrast.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Advent 13

Chariots of Fire might I suppose get a look in but today we have what is in my judgement the very best  film about sport. Bull Durham is also bloody funny. It captures the oh so important yet inconsequential magnificence of sport and why men play it. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent 12

Yesterday's film and today's are both contenders for the title of greatest sequel ever made. Star Wars was good but The Empire Strikes Back is assuredly better and possessor of one of cinema's best lines ... but I won't spell it out in case you are one of those few people who've never seen it. Don't worry I'm sure it must be on over Christmas.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Advent 11

I had an educated conversation the other evening with a member of the younger generation in which we contrasted the relative merits of today's choice (Godfather Part II) and Goodfellas. Let us be quite clear, both are brilliant. Goodfellas is a fine cut jewel of a film. Very Martin Scorsese. Godfather II is a diamond in the rough by comparison but in the final analysis it is Coppola's picture which engages me more. Thus I make you an offer you can't refuse.


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent 10

We were staying in Cornwall, Rachel still a toddler and Helen just old enough to go to the pictures. So it was that Daddy and Helen ('Big Mates' as we told ourselves) went down into Wadebridge to the proper old picture house to see today's selection. When I see or hear any extract from this film I am taken back to the queue outside the cinema and the sensation of her warm little hand in mine as we awaited admission. We had sweets and drinks and I spilt my Vimto. I love The Jungle Book.


Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent 9

I do like a good war film and this is a good war film. It is earnest but not overly so given that it reconstructs the most important events of the twentieth century. Anyway I think a bit of earnestness doesn't go amiss when it puts you in mind of my parents' generation who lived through the war, and my grandparents' generation who fought in it. Another film where the choice of black and white enhances the cinematography.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent 8

A man's reach should exceed his grasp. Bear that in mind when considering the huge and self-indulgent spectacle of Heaven's Gate. By all accounts Michael Cimino was utterly beyond control when filming this sprawling mess of a movie and it shows. But for all that it has a rueful splendour and a morbid fascination. I enjoy it for all its faults and frequent incomprehensibility. And I'm not at all sure that it is any more of a mess than the much more highly regarded Apocalypse Now. Just saying.


Advent 7

Now you just knew there had to be some Shakespeare didn't you. Bloody and magnificent, in fact just bloody magnificent, Julie Taymor's Titus gives gory relevance to a lesser part of the canon. I've gone on about   Titus Andronicus at length before so all I will say is that if you think Tarantino to be cutting edge then you don't know your bard - or as it happens and harking back to another post, your Orson Welles either.

  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent 6

You always remember the first film you see at the cinema. So despite Dick Van Dyke's shameful gurning, Mary Poppins has to be on my list. Not only does it remind me of my own childhood but of my children's childhoods - I enjoyed all of them. It was at the Palace in Erdington, an establishment that did not even survive my youth. They knocked it down and built a supermarket, itself since supplanted.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent 5

Chiaroscuro. Film noir. If you want to see the work of someone who understood these techniques and transcended them, then please watch Touch of Evil. Orson Welles, Orson bloody Welles. Far too clever for his own good.

The bravura opening shot of Touch of Evil runs for three and a half minutes in a single swooping take. What follows is equally arresting - a tempest of contrasts, of good and evil, of light and dark, of fat and thin. A famous blonde appears in a raven wig. Check the famous first scene below.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent 4

Black and white films - there'll be a few of them. The first is Duck Soup. The Marx Brothers remind me of the whole family round the creaky old gas fire at Holly Lane, us allowed to stay up late to watch a classic film and, if we were really lucky getting to toast bread on that gas fire. Eaten with unhealthy amounts of butter. As Groucho would tell you, everybody knows that there is no sanity clause. Hail Hail Freedonia.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent 3

And now for something completely different. No not Python but an Australian film rich in low comedy and sporting action. Ripper. Track it down if you can and enjoy with some robust antipodean red.


Monday, 2 December 2013

Advent 2

Yesterday I felt satisfyingly yuletidey. Today's efforts in the world of commerce have left me a little deflated but worry ye not for salvation is at hand. Yesterday we had a behemoth of the screen, a four hour epic. Glorious. Today we have a wee British film. Glorious.

Gregory's Girl is warm, funny and compassionate. Watch out for the scene in which Gregory attempts invisibility as he arrives late at school. Or the repeated motif of the child roaming the school corridors in a penguin costume. And remember to keep dancing, otherwise you might fall off.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent 1

I've just spent a capital afternoon with my soul mate. We caught the train into Birmingham, which, as Sharon says always feels more of a treat than driving in. We then got all multi-cultural by having a bottle of champagne at the German Christmas Market. This seeming over-indulgence was based on sound economic considerations, the full bottle price per glass being a full 60% lower than the per glass price. We don't like wasting money you know. Times are hard.

Thereafter to Cineworld and the community savouring in shared darkness of the cinematic greatness that is Gone With The Wind. A fresh new print of the film shown in its original 4:3 Technicolor. I know this film inside out but this was my first proper theatrical exposure. Everyone should do it. The official trailer is linked below. The embedded advertising for male incontinence treatment perhaps tells you the demographic they were expecting to take this golden opportunity.




Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Advent - A Public Announcement

The Overgraduate advent calendar will be back by popular demand. Last year was books so this year will have to be films. Not necessarily the best films but interesting films, meaningful (to me) films. Some films have already appeared on previous posts but I lack the energy to be relentlessly original. I am going to see the first film on the list at an actual cinema on Sunday so watch this space for the low-down on how it bears up to large screen scrutiny. Some of you may already have guessed what it is. Well clever old you.

Pyramid Selling: A Song Of Modern Management

up-sell
callage
partnership
pretty unique
critical mass
process mapping
bow tie approach
a brave new world
supply chain route
key influencer
multiple touch points
to much more focus on
far less failed deliveries
a whole nother suite of rooms
it's all about the customers
no second chance to create a first impression
 
selected for economy
a room too small
and smug with faux conviviality
fearful and loathing all
leaderene spitting vitality
oozing corporate offal
 
audience interaction
(non) participation
inanity
inaudible
how do you know?
trust me
 
money money money
must be funny.
 
Bloody hilarious.

 

 
 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

List Number Two

small minds
black dogs
inbox inbox
second childishness and mere oblivion
hell is other people

List Number One

Old ladies in hats drinking convivial commercial coffee,
Talking of Michelangelo.
Grammar school education.
Poetry Please.
Christmas in prospect.
The Men Who Stare At Goats.
Remembrance.
Group therapy.
Ynys Mon.
Jaguar's 4 litre V8.
Unsatisfied, Nine Black Alps.
Silly jokes.
Puns especially.
Sonnets.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Titus Andronicus And Professional Wrestling

I drove on clear roads at relatively high pace in my precious Jag from home to Stratford-upon-Avon. I walked between the raindrops toward the theatre but deviated to buy a bag of chips which I then ate as I walked by the river. I disposed of the chip paper responsibly. Thus fortified I entered the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and enjoyed a glass of white in the bar before I took up my standing position in the Swan auditorium - my ticket had cost all of £5. The programme contained an article by the matchless Jonathan Bate and the show in question was my old favourite Titus Andronicus. Professor Bate has these wise words,
Critics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries could not cope with such incongruity. Its affront to stylistic decorum  was thought to be on a par with the play's shocking lack of respect for the principle of poetic justice, in which the evil are punished and the good. are duly rewarded. In our time, though, we have become sceptical about easy divisions between good and evil, black and white. 
Perhaps this modern scepticism explains the success not only of this RSC revival but also the National Theatre's recent revisiting of the misanthropic Timon of Athens. Two under-performed plays which catch the disenchanted Cameroon zeitgeist. And this thought leads me, as these things often do, to professional wrestling and the works of Roland Barthes. All of this was brought into plain sight on television this morning as I watched Daniel Bryan launch himself over the ropes onto the conveniently assembled Shield before springing back into the ring to pin Randy Orton.

Then these same people wax indignant because wrestling is a stage-managed sport (which ought, by the way, to mitigate its ignominy). The public is completely uninterested in knowing whether the contest is rigged or not, and rightly so; it abandons itself to the primary virtue of the spectacle, which is to abolish all motives and all consequences: what matters is not what it thinks but what it sees. (Barthes, Mythologies, 1957, trans Lavers 1984)
So, put plainly I enjoyed this Titus thanks to a cocktail of a fast car, some fast food, some English criticism, some French philosophy and some American grapple. It's good to be back.

The Manchester Rambler

You know how a song sometimes lodges itself in your mind and won't go away. How you wish you could sing, if only so that you could sing that one song late at night to a rapt bar. Here is my current song. It tells a story.




Monday, 16 September 2013

Just For A Moment I Thought I'd Gone Mad

It happened a couple of weeks ago when Vince Cable slagged off the government's wretched Help to Buy Scheme. Saint Vince was making the point that such interventionist policies can stoke up an undesirable asset bubble - he might equally have said that such schemes verge on the immoral, but then Vince is a liberal rather than a libertarian. But credit where credit's due - Vince you were spot on.

But then he started banging on about his bloody Mansion Tax again. I think we all know what I think of that. As for today well talk about having your cake and eating it - Biting the Hand

Why is it by the way that inflation is a 'bad thing' except when it applies to housing? Among much else Mark Twain got this right - Buy land, they're not making it anymore. One of the many wise things I never said but wish I had.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Kernow

The worst thing about any holiday is that you have to go back to work afterwards. Holidays can be rated inversely by reference to the extent that you can face work at their expiry. Cornwall 13 ranks high. Tomorrow will not see me at my best in the office.

Cornwall/Kernow. A beautiful county perched on the extreme left edge of England, bordered only by Devon. Some highlights: the beach and coastline at Sandymouth, a contender to take Bamburgh's hitherto unchallenged best beach in the world award; walking in the mist and rain from Sandymouth to Bude and back; St Ives - make sure you don't make the rookie mistake of trying to drive to the centre of the town, instead take your medicine and park at one of the outlying car parks and steel yourself for a vertiginous descent and eventual knackering ascent; Tate St Ives - though in truth the exhibits will always struggle to live up to the aspect of the building; the Hepworth Museum - I thought this was a surprising gem that served to give context to the sculptures - they do a joint ticket with the Tate which makes good value.
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

 As one should on holiday we ate plentifully if not always well. As one should also do on holiday we took the chance to watch some films on the old dvd box. And jolly good they were too, none new to us but unwatched for several years and unreviewed on this blog. So here goes.

Thirteen Days is the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis told from the viewpoint of a Kennedy White House insider. The Russian perspective is barely considered. That is not a criticism. A good film. I am precisely of an age to have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis but not to have experienced it (I was two). Is it taught in modern history lessons I wonder? It bloody well ought to be.  As the tag-line has it  'You'll never believe how close we came'.

Kevin Costner is much derided but it seems to me that he is in a goodly proportion of decent enough films - Thirteen Days included.

Heartburn is Nora Ephron before she wrote the brilliant When Harry Met Sally. Jack Nicholson does his usual matchless portrayal of Jack Nicholson and I'm all in favour of that. Meryl Streep is predictably competent even if there is that annoying hint that you can see the method being applied. This is a slight film with human beastliness at its heart and matching human resilience fighting against the nastiness. This theme it shares with the final entry in our own little Kernow Film Festival.

The Purple Rose of Cairo is another slight comedy with betrayal at its centre. Halliwell dismisses it rather (though granting it a single star - more than it affords Heartburn) as nothing more than an elongated sketch. That is true of many of Woody Allen's films but perhaps he is a victim of his own successful method. When The Artist seemed to me to deploy all manner of Allenesque tricks it was hailed as innovative. When Allen does it, it is repetitious. Not Allen's best film but not by any means anything other than a good one.


A Good Time Was Had By All

In what must have been something of a record, Sharon and the BFP only dined out once in Cornwall last week. However our one experience bears a recommendation. We were accompanied by nephew Harry who resides in Falmouth and who had nominated The Cove at Maenporth. The website describes the restaurant as 'award winning' though is not immediately forthcoming as to which awards, but I can well believe it having been highly taken with the line caught sea bass. Imaginatively prepared (pigs' trotters were involved) but not so that the imagination got in the way of the taste. If Big Fat Pig awarded stars for restaurants The Cove would qualify. If in the area, give it a try. Worth a detour even if only vaguely in the vicinity. That good. Cove website      

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Big Fat Pig Sur Ses Grandes Vacances En Cornwall

My soulmate and I are in Cornwall for a week. We have rented a beautiful cottage a few miles from Bude and it has a nice kitchen (though not of course as magnificent as the edifice the builders are currently constructing back at the ranch) and a hot tub - how debauched! Big Fat Pig is mid campaign in the battle to undo all the good work of recent exercise having managed only one desultory run yesterday evening. BFP is not only gorbing (my thanks to my late father-in-law for that descriptive and spell-checker challenging word) but he is also back on the booze having rescinded the self-denying ordinance at the wedding of Katie and Rhodri Parfitt last Friday.

The wedding - a damned fine time was had by all. The next generation came very well out of this nuptial celebration. They were cheerful and accommodating to their elders and refrained from laughing when we took to the dance floor. There were even three competent, sincere and beautifully judged speeches from groom, best man and father of the bride - the last of these being my little and estimable brother. A rather moving and touching day. Excellent grub also - troughed up by the BFP.

And so to Cornwall. We holidayed here quite often when the girls were young but have not been here for more than a decade. It is two hours too far away to be weekendable but it is magnificent when you have the time. Better out of season as well.

Top tudor gaff
National Trust properties have occupied our last two days. Both Cotehele and Lanhydrock were under siege from people older even than BFP. If the Church of England was latterly the Tory party at prayer, then the National Trust is the current middle-classes at their leisure. An honesty box in the book shop perhaps best sums it up. Both properties were well worth our time and Lanhydrock is particularly arresting.

The National Trust - what to make of this very successful organisation? It is not immune to political orthodoxy and wrong-headedness - hunting and wind turbines both show it at its worst. However its core work of preserving how we have lived and the landscape we inhabit, is discharged with a charm and efficiency which is enviable - and of course they can still have an honesty box in the second hand bookshop.




Tuesday, 3 September 2013

... Are Brilliant Mark XV

Traditional British beer ... I have been off the booze for a month now and was going to wait until Katie's wedding on Friday before falling off the wagon but a bottle of IPA had my name on it.

The National Gallery. Free. Fantastic. And a cracking website. Today I was in that London and my meeting finished early so I studied not only Seurat's Bathers but his other smaller preparation pieces exhibited alongside it. Have a look for yourself - National Gallery-Seurat

Apple and granola muffins. Or more precisely an apple and granola muffin, singular, enjoyed in the National Gallery coffee bar.

Russian Caravan tea.

Trains when they run on time.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Self-Evident Truths

Deserves a quiet night
Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show has not survived the translation to television. This is a pity.

REM's Automatic For The People is a jolly good album.

Rory Bremner is very clever and talented. He was at King's at the same time as me. Our paths never crossed. Rory Bremner, sad to relate, is no longer funny.

People can very often be very bloody marvellous.

More often people can be very bloody annoying.

I'm not half looking forward to my holidays.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

What Cricket Is Really About

I love test match cricket but the thought has only recently crystallised in my mind that it exists as a site for practitioners of normative ethics. When you think about it cricket is like an examination paper for first year philosophy students.

England were thwarted by bad light as they neared a fourth win of the concluded Ashes series. But had they won, what would be the morality of a victory earned from a sporting Australian declaration? When is a victory not really a win?

And bad light stopping play - where does a professional sport lie vis-à-vis its paying customers when with all the floodlights turned on it nonetheless deprives the game of a victor?

And why is it 'understandable' for the Australian coach (who incidentally seems to me to be an eminently likeable sort) to chastise Stuart Broad for not walking when he guided one straight to slip and the umpire inexplicably managed to miss this fact, but not to complain about the countless other players of multiple nationalities who never walk? Is there a de minimis below which cheating isn't cheating?  

... Are Brilliant Mark XIV

The Golden Fry Chippie in Benllech - where on Sunday I ate the finest piece of battered haddock in history - and I speak as an expert witness on battered haddock. For people who know about these things I need only say that it was even better than Lewis's in Seahouses.

The Anglesey Coastal Path. We were up around Cable Bay on Sunday earning the appetite for the world-beating haddock.

Bangor Pier - it sticks out half a mile and the scones in the café are nearly as good as the Golden Fry haddock.

Dave Podmore's World of Cricket. Catch episodes on BBC iPlayer. There's a small touch of genius at work in this.

Baseball - courtesy of BT and ESPN I've been imbibing this most American of Americana. I don't understand half of what they go on about but I know I like it.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Shakespeare, Bagehot And The Nature Of Genius

Writers write. So here I am again trying to keep on top of my little demon who jumps up and down on my left shoulder (angels are on the right) and bellows into my lughole 'You're an underachiever Roberts.'

I'll tell you who wasn't an underachiever - that William Shakespeare. I'll tell you who else wasn't an underachiever - that Walter Bagehot. You've met them both before in these pages. Shakespeare you will have met in plenty of other places. Bagehot may be more of a stranger but he is the object of my scholarly attentions and I have been stuck in a rut of wordlessness for too many months now, hence this attempt at a break-out into the sunny uplands of academic productivity.

I don't think we need dwell on whether the Boy Shakespeare was a genius. Of course he bloody was. Certainly the Boy Bagehot thought so, though he used the g word only three times within the twenty thousand words he lavished on Shakespeare the Individual (1853, and thereby a piece of immediate post-juvenilia)- once to describe Goethe, once in the context of 'manifold genius' (the designation important for Bagehot's contemplation of genius) and finally in the contrasting context of a lesser style of genius that fails (unlike Shakespeare) to 'put out [its] proceeds properly in actual life'. In later work Bagehot who rather suffered from duomania (as recognised by his 1939 biographer William Irvine, 111, Walter Bagehot, Longmans) segregated genius into two types - 'symmetrical' and 'irregular'. Bagehot rather disdained the irregular, not least Dickens whom he placed in this caste. His distrust of Dickens' sentimentality gives us the clue as to the type of Bagehot's own genius - he was a regular sort of chap and a regular sort of genius. His was a studiously prosaic output. Might he even not have been a genius, but merely a talent? His biographers' opinions vary. Richard Holt Hutton and Mrs Russell Barrington were firmly in the genius camp and C.H. Sisson was equally firmly in the opposite school. In fact Sisson regarded Bagehot as a charlatan, albeit  a talented one. But let's leave it to rest with two further biographers, the aforementioned William Irvine (1939) and Norman St. John-Stevas (1965 in the preface to the first volume of his studiously edited Collected Works).

Irvine's is a cool-headed appraisal,
Among nineteenth-century thinkers Bagehot was perhaps not one of the greatest, yet he was certainly one of the most universal. As a writer and thinker he did not enjoy the luxury of pre-eminent genius, but he possessed a breadth and balance which such genius frequently lacks. He included within himself much of the past and therefore much of the future. In an age of various and widespread confusion he applied with cool common sense and keen penetration an ancient and profound [Aristotlean] philosophy to an immense variety of problems, both old and new.
St John-Stevas is far less circumspect,
Walter Bagehot (1826-77), banker, economist, political thinker and commentator, critic and man of letters was Victorian England's most versatile genius.
The versatility is the difficulty - does it disqualify a being from genius? Well I've been thinking about that and I think the answer is no but there has to be some product of lasting worth rather than a plethora of the merely meritorious. What of Bagehot bears re-reading? Quite a lot actually and I do not just mean the usual suspect, The English Constitution. I would even include Shakespeare the Individual in that category. For the constitutional theories that made Bagehot a genius inform his literary criticism and when your brain has been stewed by modern literary theory he makes a nicely refreshing and enthusiastic change.

So here goes: Shakespeare huge genius. Bagehot common or garden regular genius. You heard it here first. 
  


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Look At That Bloke In The Cool Oakleys

That's what they were saying for the forty-one minutes and fifty-eight seconds during which I occupied the streets at running pace this morning. This duration borders on the bloody miraculous. Watch this space. Big Fat Pig obituary imminent?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Reasons To Be Cheerful. One Two Three.

Test cricket, bloody hell. A terrific match ended only minutes ago at Durham and the Ashes series has been won by England. The 3-0 scoreline disguises the closeness of two of those victories and the fact that Australia were robbed by the Manchester weather in the drawn match. As if to prove that the Overgraduate needed a dose of humility, I have had to spike the rant I had mentally prepared about Stuart Broad being an overrated show-pony. Match figures of 11 for 121 rather suggest that I know bugger all whereof I speak.

I've joined the cult
My beautiful and capacious (ramwise you understand) new MacBook Air from those nice people at Apple on which this blog will henceforth be forged. The experience of buying it at the Apple Store in the Bull Ring was somewhat akin to joining a cult but goes down as a positive consumer experience.

Running. Rather against expectations I managed to run for thirty minutes yesterday and am still basking in that self-righteous runner's high. Those Oakleys sure are working their magic


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Twenty Minutes And Forty-Two Seconds In The Life Of A Big Fat PIg

Twenty minutes is a barrier that matters because in the weird science of athletics it marks the difference between jogging and running. And 20.42 was how long BFP ran for this evening. Ran? Well I caught a glimpse of my shadow while out today and it seemed more shuffling than running to me. But the watch does not lie, so I have been running. This represented five successive days with strenuous(ish) exercise. I wore the Oakleys which probably explains my success. Touch wood, no calf injuries either. Might the chiropractor have made a beneficial difference to my gait? I'm happy to grasp at any straw.

I'm off the booze for a month as well so am feeling irrationally virtuous at present. Mind you I could murder a glass of chilled red right now. Yes I did say chilled red. The continentals do it and there are occasions when it fits the bill perfectly. Try it and tell the sommelier that a Big Fat Pig sent you.

I don't know about you but the hardest thing I find when running is the inability to think of anything other than the pain involved in doing it. I don't suffer the same problem when swimming or cycling. What should I think about dear reader? Answers on virtual postcards to the Overgraduate please.

BFP, over and out.



Sunday, 4 August 2013

Cardamom Coffee

David a Londres
Forgive me forgetting, but these things I do (Bernie Taupin at his best) - I clean forgot to sing the praises of Camden Market at which I spent last Sunday afternoon. Sure there's much rubbish and tat you can get there but there's also a surfeit of good stuff. And the food, well you could get well full without too much damage to your wallet. I was still stuffed from breakfast at the Prince of Wales' Feathers but I did discover cardamom coffee at a Lebanese cafe. I shall return and savour it with some lunch next time because that looked nice and was paid the ultimate compliment of being enjoyed by a couple of elderly Arabs deep in foreign conversation.

D'apres les personnages de Herge
One can never have too many tee-shirts so I bought myself a Tintin a Londres shirt. Not Herge but in the style of Herge. I shall be wearing it in the near future and looking rather dashing.

The best sort of rain is the sort that falls overnight. The sun shone all day yesterday and is shining now on wet pavements without me having seen a drop of precipitation. I feel as if I have cheated nature. I will have a quiet word with Big Fat Pig and see if he is up for another short run before I drive us home through the mountains.



Saturday, 3 August 2013

Big Fat Pig Redux

You might remember BFP, he was an early centre of attention for this blog. He was temporarily banished and replaced by Iron Dave but we have to face the horrible truth that the Pig is back. But once again we will triumph over lardiness.

Thus did BFP take to the streets of Benllech at lunchtime for a pathetic excuse of a run. And the self same BFP later went down to the beach for a cursory splash, on the basis that immersion in cold salt water feels good for the soul.

As seen in Benllech

Hell Is ... Other People ... Heaven Is

Hell is other people. I thought this as I sat in a stuffy standard (ie second) class carriage last Friday evening. The (lack of) air conditioning, the oafishness of the bloke who denied our reservation, the noise of the stag party, these are a few of my unfavourite things.

Heaven is other people, most particularly my own wondrous daughters who hosted us last weekend. Heaven is other people, when part of the determined audience at the Globe sitting (even standing some brave souls) through all three parts of Henry VI . The hunger, the hard seating and the eventual tumultuous rain were all bearable for what was a thrilling pageant of poetry and story telling. These may be Shakespeare's least esteemed history plays (in some estimations not entirely or even mostly his handiwork) but played at pace and without overdue deference they work on stage. Bravo.



An interesting encounter in the interlude between Parts II and III - I politely asked an elderly lady if the space next to her on a bench was taken. She responded that it was not and then engaged me in conversation about the production and the Bard in general. She proudly informed me that she was eighty-five and that this was most definitely the last chance she would enjoy to see these three relatively rarely performed plays together. It was hard not to agree. She then turned to me and asked that I mind her bag because she was absolutely gasping to go outside and have a cigarette. I liked her.

An interesting matter of train station etiquette arose while waiting for another train this week. This time I was in the Virgin First Class Lounge so in a more amenable mood than had prevailed last week. The quandary - it is I presume rude to stare (or indeed even glance) at the manifest transvestite sitting opposite one. Modern manners can be awfuly vexing.


I watched an interesting and very British piece of film making last night - Mona Lisa in which Bob Hoskins does his best Bob Hoskins imitation. It was one of those free dvd's they used to give away with the Sunday papers and which lie in a neat pile here in Anglesey. I'm repainting some water damaged spots in the kitchen the roof having finally been repaired, inbetween bouts of listening to or watching the Ashes, wherein Australia are in the process of proving they are not nearly as bad as some would portray them and England are demonstrating that they are not remotely as good as some believe.  

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Between Treatments

I had near adjacent appointments this morning - one for my back, one for my brain. So it was that in the interlude between chiropractor and psychiatric nurse I sat in Yates's and fed my caffeine addiction. I had no money with me so had to pay £1.30 by card which felt more than faintly silly. I sat down near to a woman who seemed to be at the point of polishing off a bottle of white on her own. What time had she started? My coffee (an acceptable brew and by modern standards inexpensive) was served in a lipstick smudged cup. I wondered who had last used it, said nothing and drank left handed from the unmarked side. As I drank, a bevy of young mothers arrived, their offspring in tow and they settled down for drinks and snacks as the children clamoured for colouring books and crayons proffered by the staff. I read a Spectator article about facing up to death. I left to walk to my psychiatric engagement and reflected that mornings like this are what make you a poet. Hopefully.

I'll tell you who's good. That Daniel Craig as James Bond that's who. I'm not really a Bond fan but I've seen most of them and I reckon Skyfall is the best of the lot. A very post-modern and emotionally vulnerable Bond. I love that bit when he crashes through the wrecked roof of a bus, picks himself up and resumes the chase, but only after stopping to shoot his cuffs. Class.

The Overgraduate is about to embark on an open air Bardathon. Tonight it is Chester where he and Mrs Overgraduate are being generously hosted at A Midsummer Night's Dream by Weightmans Solicitors. On Saturday I will tackle solo (everyone else thinks I'm mad or sad) all three parts of Henry VI at the Globe. Honestly, I'm like a child on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Confederacy Of Cyclists

I know I've told you before but just to remind kind readers that I have a bike, a Cannondale CAAD 8 to be exact, of which I am inordinately proud. One can pay ten times (and the rest) what I paid for a bike but this will do for me and as with most sad middle-aged cyclists I rather fancy that the combination of cycle and lycra knock years off me. But there is more - what really knocks years off a bloke is a pair of Oakley sunglasses - full mirrored proof that you have more money than sense. Here are mine, Tour de France 2013 special editions with interchangeable lenses. Been running in them three times and two outings on the Cannondale and as yet they have not made me measurably faster but that can only be because I'm getting used to them. What they have done is made me want to get out and exercise. I know, pathetic isn't it.

I had a nice, moderately strenuous, bike ride yesterday which was lifted by what happened when I got a puncture only six minutes in. As I inverted the bike to change the tube an elderly but lean man crossed the road to ask if I needed any help, he had tools in his garage just round the corner. No I was fine thank you. Transpired he was still a keen rider himself and we chatted amiably as I worked on the wheel, discovering some mutual acquaintances - it's a small world (but I wouldn't want to wallpaper it). Then we were joined by a slightly younger man (number one was in his seventies, the second his sixties) and his dog. Another cyclist though currently recuperating from an Achilles injury sustained in five-a-side football - "You'd think I'd know better at my fucking age" as he succinctly put it. My two new friends did what cyclists always do and politely admired my bike, "Three cogs of nine, twenty-seven gears, bloody hell. Puts my old Sturmey Archer in its place." Once up and running again I bade them a cheery farewell and left them in each other's good company. Sometimes it is good to be alive.

And today it is good to be a British/Irish rugby fan. the Lions gave Australia a bit of a towelling this morning - 41-16 - thus winning the series. Leigh Halfpenny attracted much deserved praise for his nerveless display but for me the man of the match was Alex Corbisiero who helped render the Aussie scrummage inoperable and did countless good things in the loose. Mention also for Romain Poite, the world's best referee of the scrum.

While I've got you, just to confirm that I completed the set two nights ago when I watched Revenge of the Sith. Far, far better than episodes I and II but not up there with The Empire Strikes Back. Dialogue still creaks but there is a nicely bleak message underlying it all in the scrolled type of the introduction - "There were heroes on both sides."

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Glutton For Punishment

Sucker that I am I sat through Attack of the Clones last night. It is not without merit and the underlying saga has a certain cheesy charm to it, but boy does it go on and boy is the dialogue ropey. Will I watch Episode III? Of course I will - I'm a completist.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Cinematic Thoughts

Hang 'Em High is Hollywood's response to the spaghetti western - borrowing some of the stylistic tics of Sergio Leone and repatriating the scion of spaghetti, Clint Eastwood. Despite this unpromising derivation this is not altogether a poor film. Eastwood is magnetic as ever and the spaghetti ingredients receive a coy leavening of  truth, justice and the American way. I like Eastwood. He can rescue moderate films.

For many afficianados the most depressing words in the language are 'me's a Jar Jar Binks.' I was reminded of this tonight when rather against my better judgement I viewed The Phantom Menace. Actually it is not as bad as my memory had thought. Mind you it's not very good either. Even more off-putting than the Binks banality is Ewan Mcgregor's accurate but annoyingly affected adoption of his best Alec Guiness voice. Ok it's clever and makes theoretical sense but, I'm sorry it just drew yet more attention to the wooden George Lucas dialogue.

Sport, Sport, Sport

Several and different reminders of just why I love sport.

Thursday afternoon at Royal Ascot and an hour and a half which ranged over and above melodrama. First a winner for  the widow of the recently deceased Henry Cecil. Story book stuff. And the next race - nothing less than a Gold Cup victory for a horse owned by the onlooking reigning monarch. And in the next race, the winner's enclosure invaded by a joyful Irish syndicate quite clearly and deservedly set for a night on the lash. You simply couldn't have scripted it.

Thursday night and the NBA finals went to a deciding game seven, won frenetically by Miami Heat. A long way from Royal Ascot but every bit as compelling, even if contested by a freak-show of millionaire giants.

This morning a first test between the Lions and Australia, with the Lions hanging on to win 23-21 and the Wallabies missing two late and eminently kickable penalties to win the match. The melodrama only abetted by enigmatic (that's polite for crap) refereeeing. Great fun.

To paraphrase the unloveable but undeniably brilliant Sir Alex Ferguson - sport, bloody hell.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Move Over The Boss, We Have A New Winner

It was the summer of '81 when Ian and I saw Bruce Springsteen at the NEC. Bloody brilliant and until a fortnight ago unbettered. But now we have a new answer to the best gig question (can someone my age realistically use a word like 'gig'?) and that answer is - Muse as seen at the impressive Etihad Stadium in Manchester. An incidental bonus to attendance at this extravaganza and having missed it so much at Cheltenhanm this year was the availability and the good-as-you-rememberedness of the foot long hot dog. With onions.

On the Saturday after the aMusement (you see what I did there?) there was an afternoon at another English institution - the one day international, England v Australia at Edgbaston. A comfortable England victory and a comfortably enjoyable day's drinking. In passing a word of praise for the ICC Champions Trophy of which this game was part - a concise and therefore arresting tournament without either the interminable pissing-about of your modern World Cup or the monstrous vulgarity of Twenty20. Not a patch on test cricket mind.

In golf the US Open is this week being played at The Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia, sister club of the estimable Merion Cricket Club whereat the Boy Roberts batted in the nets in 1981 as the guest of Professor Alan Lawley of Drexel University. It's a long story.

Rugby Union. Yesterday afternoon I watched a valiant Scotland lose to South Africa and the commentary made me realise that there are plenty of things worse than that annoying tit Stuart Barnes. Barnes may be infuriating but he is at least not tiresomely biased which was the unabashed modus operandi of the Springbok commentators. Embarrassing.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Paddling Benllech Bay 5 June 2013

Quiet North-Easterly
Whips genteel waves
I remove my shoes
Sand brack-scours my feet
Young lovers depart for canoodling
Or whatever it is they do
I have the water to myself
On Monday I was sick
Tuesday part cured
Today part sick
Tomorrow well I hope
After my water cure
Junior beach engineers
Dig out a stay of execution
From a proud father
Dreaming of a seaside pint
Their excavation diverts
Attention from the still
Smouldering barbecue of
An entented couple
Bare feet protruding
Shadow cast through water
I have the sea to myself

The Godfather

From the comfort of my private cinema at my country seat (aka the front room in Anglesey) I have been treating myself to a Godfatherthon. My very first copy of Halliwell's adorns the bookshelf here and it reminds me that none of the Godfather films was deemed worthy of its top four star rating. In the case of Part 3 I doubt this is a matter of dispute even for the most die-hard fan - it is not by any means a bad film but indisputably it is not a great one. The two much earlier films are a different matter however. The original is gripping and stylish and the second episode is better yet, best enjoyed with an entire bottle of decent claret and strong cheese - these being the Anglesey equivalent of a bucket of Coke and a pail of popcorn. Godfather and Godfather Part 2 are both in the Overgraduate Top Fifty 

Catch 22

Every act of adaptation is itself a new work of art which should arguably be judged on its own merits. This becomes difficult with something as treasured as a great novel like Catch 22. If the adpatation to film does not fit the book's lovers' precise expectation then the film becomes a disappointment or even to some a betrayal. Thus I came cautiously to this film. And you know what - I don't think it's nearly as bad as some criticism would have you believe. The black humour is there in spades and I am a fan of Alan Arkin who plays a suitably bemused Yossarian. The narrative time-line is cleverly established. I liked it. Didn't love it. Not Top Fifty material but worth the time. Joseph Heller himself had a good immodest line he used for critics who asked if he was disappointed not to have written another book as good as his first novel. He used to reply that he didn't feel too bad, after all no one else had written one as good either.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Lawrence Of Arabia

(This is by way of settling an old score. Just because someone once told me I knew nothing (or at least the very close cousin of nothing) about film, I am going to keep on inflicting my analyses on the world.)

The film opens with its main character's death and we are clumsily left in no doubt that Lawrence was unknowable. That opening is practically the film's final missed step. Three and a half hours do not drag. There are lengthy scenes and enigmatic silences but no longeurs. The most cited shot is undoubtedly that in which Omar Sharif makes his entrance from the sun-blurred desert horizon but one can equally note the battle sequences - spectacular to a purpose.

My trusty Halliwell's (2007 edition so therfore before the publishers butchered this magnificent work of reference) properly gives it the maximum four stars but complains that the film does nothing to explain the enigma of Lawrence. That is harsh. The unknowability of extraordinary men is their very point. Besides there is a very strong suggestion in the film that self-knowledge became an uncomfortable burden to Lawrence. That is enough.

Epic film making at its sumptuous best. One of the Overgraduate's Top Fifty.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Writers Write And Black Dogs Hate It

mine has a surplus curve apparently
A lot going on that I could bore you with and I'll be getting into that forthwith but first a good word for chiropracty, if indeed that is a word - actually I don't think it is but it sounds more snappy (geddit?) than chiropractic treatment. On Sharon's recommendation I have discovered the joys of having my spine cracked and I must say the benefits have been immediate. I played golf predictably badly last Thursday (at my new club, Baron Hill on Anglesey) and felt none of the usual ill effects save for the sensation that I really ought to try something I'm good at. Like what, the wits among you will be asking. I'm still bloody looking I will respond.

So all that stuff. Just back from the annual Heineken Cup trip. Compliments to JS, AO, GB and AW for their predictably excellent company and a definite recommendation for that party city, Dublin. In our five years of cup finals only Cardiff has been as good. A particular mention for the drink and the food at Porterhouse, Temple Bar - see their website at Porterhouse . If you make it there, try the tasting menu for beers and the sharing platters for food. Piss-up Central.

The dear old Conservative Party is breaking itself into smithereens over two issues - Europe (deja-vu) and gay marriage. You won't need reminding where I stand on Europe but here is the Overgraduate's take on gay marriage - to the extent that marriage is a contractual and civic arrangement I have no difficulty with it being available to homosexual couples. Same goes for civil partnerships - oh but hold on a minute that special arrangement is only available to same sex couples. What's that all about then? Politicians getting in a bloody mess is what. By the way you may take it as an absolute certainty that the relentless liberals will very soon bring legal action designed to force gay marriage in churches and temples. Trust me, I'm a a lawyer. Oh and a final word for the tory worthies who wrote to the Boy Cameron about how gay marriage makes the party unelectable - you're having a laugh aren't you - it's the other shades of uselessness that do that.

Wagner - been reading a bit about this troublesome genius and listening to The Ring Cycle. It's like Lord of the Rings on operatic steroids.

Seven Samurai - it's available on Love Film and although the subtitles are a bit ropey it's more than worth watching.



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Playing To The Gallery

Thou shalt not kill. And more particularly thou shalt not kill a policeman. Mandatory Life This is the bizarre tripe put about by our Home Secretary today. Playing to her gallery of assembled rozzers she elevates the taken life of an officer above that of other citizens. Absolute top grade illogical bollocks. Why am I not surprised.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Damnedest Thing Just Happened To Me

It's raining good and proper - pissing down, thunder everything. The guttering on the conservatory (as I discovered in an inspection earlier today) has been degraded by the weight of snow it had to hold during the winter. Result One: water cascading straight off the roof. So I did that thing that men do when they are helpless to remedy a situation - I decided to get closer so that I could better observe the deluge. In my curiosity I had forgotten that I had closed the conservatory doors to deaden the sound of the rain. Result Two: I advanced full tilt (well full tiltish) into the glass doors. Bastard well hurt as well. Now my nose looks like I've made yet another rugby comeback. Good news - the conservatory doors are ok.

Which isn't what I had intended to write about but I thought you might like the immediacy of the above.

No what I had meant to say was that we watched Ray recently, the Ray Charles biopic. I recommend it. Jamie Foxx oustanding. Having imparted this information I'm now going to try to negotiate the stairs without doing myself another mischief and you can all laugh among yourselves.

Sequence And Consequence (No 1) Mountain Sea Sand

(       )
There
is
no rhyme
in mountains
but sharp poetry
today embraced by lying snow's
deceit flowing in fair face frozen invitation
(                                                                     )
Alienated by ocean we wait on the beach's poetry zone
of practical amplitude and measure
maximum oscillation by skimming stone
we can insert equal and opposite
forces of disruption and still they come
and still they come plain exquisite
exquisite plain away and home
(Appian Way St Peter's Dome
We stray) and lift behold again
and now redux exquisite plain

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pictures, Words, Actions, Food And A Notable Life


Pictures. I strongly recommend the Lichtenstein Retrospective at the Tate Modern in that London. Dude could paint. Daughter Number 2 (who knows about these things) felt the show was not well curated but this detail did not hamper my enjoyment. Nor in the end did the behaviour of bored out of their brackets young children brought to the gallery by their idiot, inconsiderate parents. If you bring them then keep control of them! Allowing them to lie on the floor in front of the exhibits is not cute or even mildly endearing - I seriously toyed with the idea of staging an 'accidental' tripping exercise so that I could give one of the little buggers a sly kick. Didn't do it of course - you have to admire my restraint. You won't believe it but there was actually one little sod in the exhibition on his skateboard.

Words. I'm finally learning to wrestle with James Joyce. My method is to let it wash over me.
Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dim tide.
 
Actions. And Words as it happens. To the bijou charms of the Almeida Theatre in that Islington to see Before the Party. Excellent and even a star sighting - Timothy West and Prunella Scales in the audience below us. She's tiny.

Food. Doing something reliably and speedily is all that is sometimes needed so full credit to the staff at a crowded Strada on the South Bank. More evidence of uncontrolled children. As Woody Allen so memorably asked in Annie Hall, why is there never a large polo mallet to hand when you need one? I should stress I would use it on the parents not the children. At least to start with.

A notable life. The blogosphere will be knee deep in Margaret Thatcher - tributes and venting of spleens in equal measure. Not much for me to add save that it seemed to this employer of people that she liberated my generation from the captivity of decline. That my generation has used its freedoms so oafishly is not her fault. Reactions to her death have also served as a timely reminder of just what knob vans are Ken Livingstone and Gerry Adams. Not that any reminder was really needed.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Ship Of Fools Has A Cinema

I have said it before - if our ship of state were rudderless we might arguably be better off than we now are as Gideon and Dave steer us knowingly onto the rocks in the vague hope that the rocks will have eroded to nothing by the time we get there. At least when you are rudderless there is the chance that you will drift to safety.

You will doubtless have been gob-smacked by the sheer euro-effrontery of the Cypriot economic crisis and mused that there is always someone worse off than you - think again and read this excellent article which neatly explains the way we are dishonestly inflating our way out of depression riding on the back of savers - Great Savings Robbery

But enough of such misery. I have been in the city state that is that London this week and that and the nearness of my admirable offspring (both of whom most sensibly reside there) have made me prone to an invigorating optimism. Doubtless this will soon get knocked out of me once back at work next week but then it will only be three weeks till our Irish golf adventure. And in the meantime I have mostly been watching good films.

Exhibit A: Kind Hearts and Coronets. I seem to recall that this was the favourite film of Edward Heath. Doubtless he took great pleasure in the notion of worthless toffs being knocked off by the middle classes. Despite bearing the handicap of Heath's recommendation, this is a gloriously dark species of genteel comedy. 7/10.

Exhibit B: All The President's Men. 9/10. The strap line calls it 'the most devastating detective story of this century' and of course it is made all the more wondrous by the fact of its truth. Watergate manged to be America at its best and worst - best in its detection, worst in its commission. The journalism behind it made me want to be a writer. So how's that working out Dave?

Exhibit C: The Lion King. 8/10. Hakuna matata,as we say around these parts.

So, on balance, all things considered, at the end of the day, basically, you know, I will probably be alright Jack. But that, as any fule no, is not the bloody point.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Of Train Journeys And Inflationary Spirals

It's amazing how much can happen to your average social commentator on one day. Wednesday passed was such a day.  These are things I am reminded I don't like.
  • Crowded trains, especially when first class is full and I am thrown in with the sweaty masses.
  • People on crowded trains who occupy a second seat with their grubby baggage.
  • People on crowded trains who occupy a second seat with their grubby baggage and sit there insouciantly playing on their mobile phones.
  • People on crowded trains who occupy a second seat with their grubby baggage and sit there insouciantly playing on their mobile phones and listening to loud shit music on their MP3 players.
Yes, I'm talking about you, you fat pikey.

And another thing - George Osborne and his ridiculous Budget with its pathetic attempts to rig the housing market and to stoke up a fresh inflationary spiral fuelled by easy credit. Will we ever even make a meaningful effort to wean ourselves off our addiction to debt? I've got a borrowed tenner says no.

Ooh ooh, Mr Peebly
However one good thing which happened in the last week was the outright destruction of an English scrummage by a fat looking bloke with bad hair. Adam Jones was the real star of Wales's evisceration of an over-hyped though honourable England team and gave hope to all of us who aim to maintain rugby as the game for warriors of all shapes. England's 2015 RWC group containing both Wales and Australia begins to look very tasty. As for the Welsh I repeat my mantra that they really do have to start caring less about beating England and rather more about giving a pasting to the likes of Australia, because they are good enough, notwithstanding they are also good enough to lose to Samoa. Go figure. They need to tap into that pathology that occupies them when the damned English hove into view.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Through A Glass Lightly

The best sporting (spectating category) week of the year has been and gone and the Roberts wallet has emptied itself all over Cheltenham - bookies the principal beneficiaries but with a passing mention for the kind people of the Cornish Pasty Company who have now replaced in my affections the Foot Long Hotdog Company, of whom no sighting this year. I do hope all is well and that our paths will cross again.

On Tuesday I travelled by National Express coach which was far, far better than I had snobbishly imagined. On the way I enjoyed the excited hubbub of five lads behind me. The efforts of the most knowledgeable to explain each way betting to the uninitiated was worth the price of admission alone. Also memorable was the reaction to certain horse names being read aloud. To Pete The Feat came the raucous imparting of the fact that there was someone known as Pete The Feet 'down the cricket club - he's got two wooden feet and never wears any shoes.' I saw the lads again on the return trip and they seemed to have enjoyed it. On that leg of the trip I was sat next to a loquacious Irishman who made light conversation and asked if I knew where Spearmint Rhino was - I did but couldn't aver to the cost of a dance.

One thing blessedly missing from my coach trips was any sign of homo chavus but you should catch Paddy Power's brilliant internet commercial which tackles this subject with an apt lack of tact.

 
 
I did Wednesday and Thursday in a shared taxi which came to about as much as the train and delivered us to the door of the Albion Social Club (day membership £2, beer cheap as chips, chips cheaper than chips) for an early start to both sessions. Cracking. Thanks to all concerned in making this another memorable week. If only that French outsider hadn't been pipped on the line it would have been a great week but still I had a nice each way pick-up.
 
Now attention turns toward the best sporting (participation category) week of the year - The Dunmore East Golf Classic. As avid readers will know my game is in a state of reckless abandonment and beyond rescue, not that I care greatly. I'm not planning any work on  my game between now and the big day but I do plan to get back into triathlon training so that I can fit into my golf trousers by the end of April. Return of Iron Dave. Watch this space.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

I Stand As The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

A reference to how I always feel in this the week before Cheltenham - we are coming out of winter (although snow today rather gives the lie to that) and Spring brings the last great ticket on earth - any day at the Cheltenham Festival. I am not taking any risks on missing out - I'm going to the first three days, full of the usual mix of optimism and trepidation. Melodic Rendezvous - remember that name and if you hear it called as a winner on the first afternoon then look for me in the champagne bar giving it large. More likely look for me eating philosophically at the Foot Long Hot Dog Company stand, my chosen festival fast-food, where I will be replenishing my energies for the onward battle with the bookies. Get on!

I stand proud as a governor of King Edward VI Aston School, more particularly after seeing the co-production with K.E. Handsworth of Les Miserables. This musical is a big ask of any troupe of amateurs, much less youngsters but bloody hell this was good. Congratulations to all.

I'll tell you what's clever - Sky+ HD. In particular movies on demand suit our viewing habits nicely. Last night we gave 007 a chance. I can't say I'm a Bond fan though I have no particular antipathy (or indeed passion) for any of his incarnations. I was pleasantly taken with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, in fact Craig was nearly as good as Judi Dench and that is saying something. She is bloody brilliant. Do all Aston Martins come with a defibrillator and a gun? My Jag didn't and I feel short-changed.

Also courtesy of on demand television we have very belatedly caught up with Spaced. Very silly, weird and in racing parlance the form of the performers has been well franked by their later efforts. Other recent discoveries have been The Killing (I reckon that being in a foreign language makes you take it more seriously) and Downton Abbey, which may very well be tosh but is high quality tosh done with professionalism. Hugh Bonneville is quality in all he does.


I'm looking for a banjo and then I'm going to hit
 that cow's arse.
Am I the only one who thinks there is a tad of natural justice in Rory McIlroy having lost the ability to hit the ball straight since arming himself with new clubs that the beast Nike pays him Ireland's GDP to use? I've nothing against the lad, I'm just saying that's all. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

... Are Brilliant Mark XIII

Match of the Day - where it should be, that is to say, Saturday night on BBC1, watched through a boozy haze after an afternoon on the rugby pitch. My haze wasn't particularly boozy this weekend but you know what I'm getting at. One odd observation - why do so many Premier League managers favour the wooly-pully under jacket fashion statement. They look silly.

I mention that the Saturday afternoon in question should be taken up with rugby. Which brings me to my second item - many thanks to Evesham RFC whose match I refereed on Saturday. As fate would have it I found myself having to make a crucial and unpopular decision on the final play of the match. Any rancour was most decidedly kept from me afterwards and I commend both Evesham and their opponents, Old Wheatleyans who seemed to be on the cusp of a proper old style rugby club night when I left them to it. Thank you gentlemen.

Flanders and Swann. I was listening to this amusing duo on the drive up to Anglesey on Saturday night. If you have never heard them, you should track them down. From a more innocent age undoubtedly but nevertheless bloody funny. Not an expletive in sight or sound either.

Nigel Owens - I've said this before I know, but he really is the dog's proverbials as a referee. I caught him in domestic action on S4C.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

I Love It When People Agree With Me

The Commonwealth flag apparently - No I didn't know either
Boma Ozobia (and I do have to say that is a fantastic name) attended my alma mater, King's College London, and unlike your correspondent she has gone on to make waves in the legal world. President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association no less. I quote from her recent interview with the most boring journal in the world, The Law Society Gazette (that may be unfair, because per force there are many periodicals I have never read):
The UK focuses too much on the EU to the detriment of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a group of friends that shares a common heritage and language with your country. You should throw in your lot with us to promote the common law worldwide and achieve a genuinely global voice.
 
Hoo-bloody-ray, someone talking my language. The Boy Cameron was recently schmoozing his way round India begging for them to take us seriously. Good luck with that son. That ship sailed when the bien pensants turned their collective back on the Commonwealth and cosied up to Europeans who rather despise us. Now just imagine a free trade block that included, inter alia, Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and India, plus little old Britain and maybe even a functioning Zimbabwe. Bloody visionary me. Forty sodding years too late.

Go on, man up and take a swing at him
Ooh, another thing while I'm going off on one. Does anyone seriously believe the British government is more (or indeed less) likely to default on sovereign debt than it was a week ago? No, thought so. Which makes Moody's downgrading of the UK credit rating stunningly irrelevant and what's more it gives that smug tosser Ed Balls the chance to crow about that other smug tosser George Osborne. A plague on both your houses etc

A Nice Little Film

I make no comment on this year's Oscars but we did finally get around to seeing last year's Best Film, The Artist a couple of weeks ago. I liked it, slight as the central conceit may be. And the period of transition from silent film to talkies is, of course, even more winningly deconstructed in Singin' In The Rain. But don't let that stop you - and the dog deserved an Oscar of its own.

Benllech Beach High Tide: Being A Poem What I Wrote


it can seem to
the casual
onlookers unversed in physics
ignorant of lunar pull
that waves crash in
angles askew
to the stark sea wall and then bounce
back out again with force renewed
and still rant in
beating harshly
then at mirror angle thrash
away into new waves rashly
only to come
more fluently
a self refreshing energy
mute force speaking lucidly
 as comforter
soothing savage
nightmares that drive me out of doors
to confront my place in nature
 

 

 

 

                        

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Weekend To Remember

All the Roberts of the male line spent the weekend in Edinburgh watching the Scotland v Italy clash and eating too much. The latter partly due to the world-class breakfasts at the Priestville Guest House - an institution I cannot recommend strongly enough. We were royally and inexpensively looked after. Website at Priestville.

As eaten by Fl LT B.D. Roberts
(RAF ret'd)
This was a first international match for the youngest tourist, George. Far from that for the oldest, BDR, but his first trip to Murrayfield and also his first ever Burger King and first ever Thai meal. You're never too old to learn new tricks.

We combined Shanks's Pony and a taxi ride to get us back from the stadium in time to watch France v Wales at the hotel. The French conspired to make me look an even lousier pundit than in their encounter with the Italians. They have announced their squad today for the visit to Twickenham a fortnight hence - Michalak still included so there are grounds for English optimism. Just watch that statement blow up in my face.

Just thought you ought to know but I hit a couple of buckets of golf balls at the range last week and made an important discovery, or rather a rediscovery - I'm just not very good at golf. I can hit a fade and a draw, I can even hit it straight - but I cannot do any of these things in the correct order. It is like constantly losing at paper scissors and stone - my perpetual incompetence is a statistical wonder. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

I've Changed My Mind

I should have said in yesterday's blog - yes I am the one who tipped France for the Six Nations, thus sealing their fate in losing to Italy on Sunday. Freddie Michalak played a bit like me, only slower on the uptake.

Oh well at least I've still got my looks.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Bloody Raining Again

Which has nothing to do with this blog but I just thought I'd lament the awful weather. Snow at least can have some romance to it, but the rain's just a sodding nuisance which makes golf an impossibility and means my boots get intolerably dirty when I referee. You have no idea how I suffer.

To business. There are eight items on my aide memoire slip of paper so off we jolly well go.

One. Truffle chips - that is to say fried potatoes drizzled with truffle oil. I had them (off someone else's plate - this greatly improves a food's taste)  at The Laughing Gravy in Southwark. I recommend the restaurant and the chips, the latter washed down by the respectable Valpolicella.

Two. Michael Portillo - have been enjoying his Great British Railway Journeys on BBC2. How is it that an ignominious exit from politics can make a man quite so much more likeable. He's really very good.

Ours is a much more fetching grey
Three. Range Rover Evoque. We now have one on the drive - a second portion of automotive porn to add to the garaged Jag. Seriously pleasurable to drive. Some have a fixation with speed, others with luxury. I rather like both. But please don't ask me to begin to explain what goes on under the bonnet. That is for others.

Four. Shropshire. I refereed at Bishop's Castle last weekend on a grand sunny day. A beautiful drive in the precious Jag.

Five. Mark Radcliffe. A much underrated broadcaster. Six. The Radio 2 Folk awards which I saw him introducing between coats of emulsion on Sunday.

Seven. The girl at the Co-Op in Benllech who tipped me off that Doritos were on special offer and saved me from buying the wrong chips to dunk in my humous between coats of emulsion.

Eight. High Noon. Serendipitously I found this being shown on Channel 4 yesterday afternoon just as I needed to stop to let coat number two dry. I had forgotten quite how bleak a film it is, Cooper's discarding of his Sheriff's tin star at the end speaking volumes. Also it is one of those films it is impossible to imagine being anything other than black and white. Tidy.