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.