Saturday, 31 January 2015

Inside Every Fat Bloke ...

… there is a thin bloke who looks good in lycra trying to free himself. So it is that after four months off the road (with a copper bottomed excuse this time - the ankle injury suffered in the descent of Snowdon) Big Fat Pig donned two new items of kit and several layers of old (it's still more than a tad parky here) and hit the asphalt this morning He survived a very short outing and will be back tomorrow. Probably. 

New kit? Some rather natty Ronhill tights (don't laugh, they keep my legs warm) and a pair of supportive Asics GT 2000 in attention grabbing ultra white. Oakleys were of course worn along with my yellow gloves and a stylish beanie hat. Titter ye not!
Go faster shoes as worn by BFP

Friday, 30 January 2015

Hutton On Bagehot

Beard of the Year
Richard Holt Hutton was Walter Bagehot's contemporary and friend at University College London; the two were together co-editors of the National Review before Hutton took up the editorship of the Spectator and Bagehot that of the Economist; Hutton wrote the original entry for Bagehot in the National Dictionary of Biography. By the Overgraduate patented scale for measuring fame it is noted that Hutton gets fourteen lines in the 1959 Britannica and our boy Walter occupies six times that number.

I have been reading Hutton's Memoir of Walter Bagehot which prefaced his edition of Bagehot's Literary Studies. It is a fine estimation of our man and all the better for its balance. Hutton's admiration and affection for Bagehot are hugely evident but he deftly distances himself from some of Walter's aberrations.

Hutton and Bagehot were both Liberals by political affiliation, but, as Bagehot's definitive editor Norman St John-Stevas perceived, there was a more conservative side to his nature. Hutton highlights this when he spots Bagehot quoting their old mate Artur Hugh Clough (himself no tory),
Old things need not be therefore true, / O brother men, nor yet the new; / Ah, still awhile, th'old thought retain, / And yet consider it again.
Which all in all sounds like a pretty sound mantra to me and one to which your correspondent might like to cleave in his more outrageous moments. As we have said plenty of times before - don't hold your breath.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

…Are Brilliant Mark XVII

A televisual bias today.

Smiley's People currently enjoying a re-run on that BBC4. Alec Guinness as Smiley gets it spot on.

We have a new hero - again courtesy of BBC4 - Neil Brand whose terrific Sound of Song is two episodes in and still available on iPlayer. I can neither play nor much less read music but Brand makes it sing (see what I did there?).

Good legal drafting - and all modesty aside I did some today.

Red wine.

Majestic Wine. Loads of choice, bags of knowledge and free samples.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Biographising the Bard

I watched a recording last night of Ethan Hawke's largely bland investigation of Macbeth in the intermittently arresting series, My Shakespeare. One nugget of criticism did however stick with me. That nugget came from Dr Gwen Adshead, a psychiatrist working at Broadmoor who observed that Macbeth's language in the immediate aftermath of Duncan's murder becomes fractured just as is the case with the real killers with whom she has worked. This observation put me in mind of Walter Bagehot's certain assertion (in the context of a hunting passage in Venus and Adonis) that one can tell a good deal about Shakespeare from his works,

It is absurd, by the way, to say we know nothing about the man who wrote that; we know that he had been after a hare.
But is that right? Can we really construct a picture of what Shakespeare must have been like merely by reading his works. Taking Bagehot's logic to an extreme (and taking also Dr Adshead to be right) are we to assume that Shakespeare had direct experience of murder? Maybe he was just a bloody genius, a bloody big genius. Does it matter even a jot what Shakespeare was like - or are the plays the thing?

I had haggis for tea today. Which was nice. So far as I can tell the word 'haggis' does not appear anywhere in the complete works.  

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Joys Of Natation

Go-faster jammers on, goggles on, stomach sucked in - Big Fat Pig is back in the water. Not at the Fairlawns, which is lovely but about the expense of which I was feeling guilty. No BFP has returned to the waters of Wyndley. No more private natation, instead it is in with the great unwashed, the slow moving pensioners and the rest. I managed only 250 metres yesterday before my form became so poor that I knew I had to stop but, hey, you've got to start somewhere. Bonus - I'd forgotten quite what a righteous hunger swimming gives you.

So leaving the gym was one of my new year resolutions. Tick - direct debit cancelled. Cutting back on the old booze was another - only one small glass of red each week night, weekends as before. Tick. Getting on with my Phd. Tick. I spent my time out of the water yesterday re-reading chunks of Bagehot, interspersed with tomes on literary theory of varying comprehensibility. If you're interested (and I concede there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't be) I recommend Peter Barry's Beginning Theory. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

It Was The Day Before The Night Before Christmas

Let me tell you what happened to me on 23 December. Now that it is out of the way I can find it amusing but on the day there was more than an element of fear and panic.

What you need to know by way of background is that my Mum was in hospital (out now and much better thank you) and that the family were taking shifts in keeping an eye on my dear old Dad who is more than a little forgetful. On the night of 22 December Nephew Harry was on Dad (well Grandad for him) duty and I was to relieve him at lunchtime on 23rd. The other thing you need to know is that Pete Wood had died after a lengthy illness. All you need to know about Woody is that he was a raving good sort and an Honorary Life Vice President of Aston Old Edwardians Rugby Club - a rare distinction which he shared inter alia with my said Dad and (most recent inductee) Gary Street. I was honoured to be asked to deliver the eulogy at the funeral on 23 December. So the plan was simple - I would collect Dad and take him to the funeral, deliver my little speech and then deliver Dad back home and stay to keep him company.

Overgraduate finds new job
Oh the final thing you need to know is that Harry forgot to turn his phone on. So the Boy Roberts, your correspondent, turns up at the old family homestead at 1.00pm. He rings the door bell. Several times. No reply. He phones the home phone. No reply. He phones Harry. No reply. He shouts through the letterbox. Several times. No reply. He runs down to the church in case Dad has wandered down there. He thereby interrupts an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. At 1.30 he takes an executive decision and forces access to the back of the house. At 1.32 he takes a further executive decision and picks up a rock which he wraps in the towel he handily found in the car. After casing the joint, at 1.33 he smashes three panes of the French windows. He shouts through the gaping aperture, "Dad. Where are you?" He receives a reply from the front hall into which said pater familias has just admitted himself on return from the pub lunch he and Harry had enjoyed. At 1.45 father and son head for Woody's funeral, leaving Harry in charge of the impeccably timeous emergency glazier.

The eulogy? Well, I was working with good material so no problem there. As to the preceding events, I  am pretty certain Woody would have seen the funny side of it all. And he would have been spot on.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Good Lawyer

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
The Bard always has a phrase when you need one and this familiar trope is from Henry VI Part II. And you know what, he had bloody point. I was spoiled in my first legal incarnation by the quality of the people for whom I acted and the temperament of the lawyers who first employed me and later took me into partnership. But now I feel myself being worn down to that sorry state where the answer is always no and any commerce is an unjustifiable risk. This I hate, so if you encounter me and find me obstructive, please accept my apologies. I never meant to be this way but they have made me. Tomorrow I vow to do better.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Climbing Up Another Sunshine Mountain

There is an infallible test for gale force winds - simply find out when Number One Daughter and I are taking to the mountains of Snowdonia. We were at it again yesterday, this time following the Fisherman's Path out of Beddgelert. But nothing could stop us, not the gales and certainly not the flooded ground and swollen rivers. On we ploughed undaunted until we came to our happy abode, or more precisely until we got back to the Canyonero aka Kia Sorento. Of which more below

 It is ten months since I announced the purchase of the Sorento, its major attraction being the seven year warranty. Well, 12500 miles on and the reports are all good. One minor quibble - the radio is pretty rubbish, a fact that Sharon never lets me forget - getting it sorted is one of my new year resolutions. Another is to leave the gym, of which more another time perhaps.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Bagehot And Problematic Presentism

What we might still attempt to do in this current conjuncture to offset this historicizing reflex is to begin the difficult labor of creating a discourse on modernity that speaks to the world, one centered principally in understanding the history of our present as the unity of uneven temporalizations differentiating global geopolitical space, rather than merely affirming or cheering on a globalizing project that sees the world only as the true space of the commodity relation.    Harry Harootunian 
Which I think you'd agree is a pretty mind-boggling sentence. My brain has today been trying to unravel this ontological ball of wool whilst also thinking about Shakespeare, Bagehot (yes them again), and the conflict of presentism and non-contemporaneous contemporaneities. The conclusion of all this unfocused thinking is that it's a funny old world that defies easy analysis. As if you hadn't figured that out for yourself.

Did Bagehot anticipate modern presentist criticism? Would he care? Is presentist criticism in fact nothing more than old criticism dressed in post-modern clothing? I have previously (mischievously) advertised myself as a post-structuralist - that sentiment being based on seeing a photograph of a very cool looking Roland Barthes smoking a vast cigar. I must now disavow that school and align myself with a division of criticism I have invented for myself. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Fluid Presentism. Or is it Multi-Layered Historicism? Or Multiple Contemporaneous Materialism?

Sod it. I give up. Put it this way - I like Shakespeare and I like Bagehot and I think each has something interesting to say about the other. All I now have to do is say this in eighty thousand or so original words and then you can call me doctor. Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

No matter how scurrilous (and I would not be at all surprised unfunny) Charlie Hebdo may be, there is only one thing that this blog can properly trumpet tonight - JE SUIS CHARLIE. See - Je suis charlie

Saturday, 3 January 2015

An Unsung Hero

I was just doing a bit of lazy channel surfing and caught Jimmy Case On The Fantasy Football Club. At left back in his fantasy team he named the neglected Derek Statham. Good call - we Albion fans have always insisted that had Statham played for a more fashionable club than the Baggies he would have won a large proportion of the caps that ended up going to Kenny Sansom. Mind you the less partial side of me can only wonder that Sansom must have been some player if he really was manifestly better than Statham. Boing Boing.

12 Films at Christmas - 12

And so the season of goodwill draws to an end. Our last film is a pleasingly light delight. Quartet is Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut and he carries it off with quiet aplomb. All he has to do is point the camera at the top level acting competition being staged between Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon - for the record there is no winner but a magnificent scoring draw. 7.5/10.

Oh and Happy New Year - should have said that sooner.

Friday, 2 January 2015

12 Films At Christmas - 11

I returned to The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn with trepidation, having raved about it in this blog on first encounter. What if I had been wrong and Spielberg had betrayed a childhood favourite?

Fears were misplaced - this is a cracking and joyously hectic piece of cinema. I have only seen it in 2D but can imagine that 3D (a gimmick of which in general I do not approve) adds to the fun.

Herge's Tintin was plainly drawn and a full-on live action rendition would have lost the cartoonish innocence. Spielberg keeps the faith with his motion capture animation. And the film does not overstay its welcome, coming in at a civilised 90+ minutes. 7.5/10.   

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Twin Peaks On Sea

As so often we are a little behind the times and Sharon and I only got around to watching Broadchurch in three solid sittings this week. One word - brilliant. Does Olivia Colman ever do anything that isn't top notch?

The blog title alludes to Twin Peaks, that legendary piece of event television from two decades back. Well I loved Twin Peaks with its mixture of suspense and idiosyncrasy but I think Broadchurch is actually better, which puts it right up there with the best television ever made. The new series starts on Monday and it has a a hard act to follow. The second series of Twin Peaks was not as good as its first even though it left the unmasking of the killer until that second (and final) series.