Monday, 30 November 2015

Mens Sana

Feeling better and a tad younger today. After much deliberation and delay I went for a run this afternoon in the wind and the rain. Blew the mental and physical cobwebs away.

It's that time of year again fans - tomorrow sees the start of the Overgraduate advent calendar. And this year we will have my twenty-four most favoured television moments. Not necessarily the best or most edifying television but my favourite bits and pieces.

We were at Speech Day at King Edward's Aston last Friday. This served to start lifting my spirits and not merely because I got to sing the school song. The School Captain is an Aston lad of Asian descent and he finished his vote of thanks with an unforced and unaffected plea for tolerance and decency.  Gets my vote every time.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Feeling Old

I feel old most of the time these days. I lack energy and rather more worryingly I have to search around for optimism. It seems to be a condition of encroaching decrepitude that one feels that the world is, despite best efforts, going to hell in a hand cart. What follows is likely to be a disorganised ramble over the state of my world.

On 11 November I happened to mention the "muderous misogynists of ISIS". I did so disparagingly and perhaps flippantly. Two days later these barbarous scumbags massacred 129 souls in Paris. Less than a week later football fans of England and France together sang La Marseillaise. There is always hope.

On the evening before the Paris atrocity I happened to have watched Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's engrossing procedural on the decade long hunt for Bin Laden. It begs questions about the propriety of "enhanced interrogation" aka torture and, indeed, questions about the value of the whole enterprise to kill Bin Laden. A very good film and proof, as if it were needed, that Bigelow is several times better a director than her over-lauded ex-husband James "Titanic" Cameron. 8/10. America makes films about these issues for commercial release. ISIS (or whatever one must fashionably call them in the post Parisian angst) obliterate ancient monuments. Go figure.

This entry is lacking direction, a product of my malaise. Today we have had the Chancellor's Autumn Statement, notable not so much for Osborne's abandonment of his plans for wretched Tax Credits but for the utter poverty of the Opposition response to it. The Labour Party, author at its best of the post-war welfare consensus, is currently a dangerous joke, led by an intellectul make-weight. This is a bad thing and it rather depresses me.

Traffic in Birmingham. What on earth is going on? This is also a bad thing.

Still, the panto went quite well last week, at least the audiences seemed to enjoy it. I found it pathetically enervating. This may be my malaise or may be the cause of my malaise. Hopefully the latter and a good snooze will prod me out of it.

For a few days I have been out of love with literary theory. This is a bad thing if you're trying to do a PhD. Is the theory industry not in danger of self-indulgence bordering on fraud?

A new series of The Bridge is screening on BBC4. This is a good thing. Saga Noren - what a creation.

Our central heating is playing up. This is a bad thing.

Russia and Turkey, neither terribly sympathetic countries, have been having a stab this week at starting World War III. Kindly get a grip. There are bigger fish to fry than each other.

Time for Grumpy to have that snooze. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Pantomime As A Theatrical Form

Here I am talking about the peculiarly British pantomime, that melange of fairytale, slapstick, music, loose plot, audience participation and mild innuendo. I'm in one this week which has rather got me thinking about this peculiar beast. Despite my role as Abanazar (another for my career collection of grumpy middle aged men) I have to confess that I am not a completely convinced advocate but I think I need to set aside any snobbery and acknowledge that is the only form of live theatre that many Brits are ever exposed to, or want to be exposed to. It is thus important.

As with most things it needs to be done well. Done badly it is execrable. I would even go so far as to say that the margin for error is smaller than with straight theatre. Our Aladdin is at the point of final dress rehearsal and thus far ours is not done well. We have tonight to get our shit together - that's a luvvie term. The biggest danger is self-indulgence by the performers, most particularly the dame and the villain. Even broad comedy requires a deft touch to be enjoyable. The other great danger is taking it for granted and treating the production of it with anything other than minute care and attention. This realisation has all come to me a bit late in the day and I am healthily terrified about the impending process. Oh yes I am. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Nation States

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

So says naive multi-millionaire John Lennon. I wonder what he would have made of the murderous misogynists of ISIS. All of which childish speculation is my clumsy way of morphing into a consideration of the nation state in modern Europe.

The nation state is not a firm concept and to the extent that such states exist I concede that they flow in and around other competing  repositories of sovereignty. See The Myth of the Nation State for a sociological perespective. If we confine ourselves to the purely British condition we have all these states, sub-states and super states to consider: the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales, Nothern Ireland, the city state that is London, and the super state (empire?) that is the European Union. Depending on your point of view, I've probably missed a few although I do draw the line at Cornish Separatism. I have left England off the list since that remains non-existent in political terms.

These competing entities manage, to varying degrees, to co-exist. The United Kingdom has fluxed and thrived for three hundred plus years but is now pulled to its limits by the burgeoning self-assertiveness of Scotland and the mass delusion of a united Europe. Scotland rather wants to have its cake and eat it and patrician English Tories tolerate this out of an outmoded loyalty. Wales would like as much cake as Scotland but is too meek to push its way to the front of the cake queue. Northern Ireland, well enough said. London is another country, alluring, contrary, expensive. Which brings us to the EU. Ah yes the EU. Le Grand Projet with its porous borders and many tongues. There is a magnificent irony in the emergence of English as the closest thing the EU has to a lingua franca. Ironic because the British (actually most notably the English) are as a breed ambivalent bordering hostile about the whole shooting match.

Any sentient lawyer understands that the EU (EEC as it was less portentously known when the process really got into gear) has long since been ceded great chunks of sovereignty by the UK's dim parliamentarians. And of course sovereignty is like virginity - it's bloody hard to get back once gifted away. So, to cut a long, sorry story short, we get the undignified spectacle of our Prime Minister asking the EU pretty please for the return of a little bit of our virginity - Cameron letter  

Cameron is asking for very little. In this one might conclude that he is at least being realistic. The nation state of the United Kingdom does still exist but in denuded form, hacked away from below and above. Eventually the realisation will come that the nation state has to be revived as the self-deceiving superstructure of Le Grand Projet tumbles in on itself. C'est la vie as we say in Birmingham.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

You Have To Listen To This

In their pomp and looking pretty fly
Listen while it is available - Pete and Clive - this is a little tribute to the matchless collaboration of Pete Atkin and Clive James. After listening, search out the 1970's Pete Atkin albums - this can involve a little looking under internet rocks but it can be done. Bloody brilliant. The most recent stuff is available on Spotify for free, but the true glory (at least to my tin ear) is in the early output. National treasures both.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Out Of The Past/Build My Gallows High

Uk poster
Out of the Past is a classic film noir and for completists we should note that its British release was as Build My Gallows High. I'm not sure of the reasons for this change in nomenclature but the British denomination seems to me to suggest a Western. Which this definitely isn't. Robert Mitchum is uber cool and the amount of sultry cigarette smoking has to be seen to be believed. 7/10.

Another Good Day - Winter Golf

Big Willy and I completed our brief North Wales tour with a round at Conwy Golf Club on Monday. The weather again benign although not quite as bright as the two previous days. Altogether a lucky trip. As if to emphasise our good fortune it rained copiously out of foggy skies as soon as I got back home.

OG advises avoiding the bunkers
Conwy is a proper links and a proper grown-up test of golf, not as pleasing on the eye as Holyhead but, if you get my drift, probably a 'better' course. Yet again the hospitality was notable. As is only right and proper Big Willy won on all three days. It's only a game (I refer you to my last blog on that particular topic).

RWC Bulletin 10 - England Even Manage To Lose The Aftermath

The final was decorated by the conscious competence of an outstanding New Zealand team - Ma'a Nonu's clinching try summing up beautifully the muscular possibilities of great rugby. Their 20011 win was sketchy (ditching twenty-four years of emotional baggage?) but this time they emerged utterly triumphant and must be praised. They beat each of the next three best teams in the competition (Australia, Argentina, South Africa) on their journey. Simply brilliant.

As for England, well as organisers we put on a great show - the full grounds bounced with energy,and the play was often compelling. As competitors we were abject. My view on this has hardened with the passage of time. Unprofessional and inexcusable. Heads should roll, not merely Lancaster but those around him and the clowns who appointed him. Don't hold your breath. As if to pollute yet further the air of decay we now have the stench of the tragi-comic end to the Burgess Experiment. After twenty-six games of Union Sam Burgess heads back to antipodean League with his tail between his legs and those who supervised the whole benighted project looking even more stupid than before, as if that were possible. Hey ho, it's only a game - in response to which inanity Ray Prosser used cannily to explete 'In that case what the f*** do we have points for?'

Monday, 2 November 2015

Some Nights It's Good To Be Alive

Still the same day as it was before but now I have to add praise of the evening meal at the Ship Inn and the top shelf goodness that Big Willy and I hit after the meal. Willy taught me a lesson in life (one that he had learned from a wise man) namely that you should allow one second on the palate for each year of ageing of a whisky. This works and out of the goodness of my heart I share it with you. Tomorrow we will set forth on the links at Conwy. It will do well to match today but Hell we'll do our best. Good night all.  
Welcome to the pleasure dome

Some Days It's Good To Be Alive

On a clear day you can see for ever
And today is certifiably such a day. My esteemed friend Big Willy and I are snatching a golf break in Anglesey and today we have laughed in the face of the gods. Much of the country, we learn, is shrouded in fog and yet we have played in bright sunshine (shirt sleeve order) at Holyhead Golf Club. As they would have it in the vernacular, a distinctly tidy golf course. Seriously, pay it a visit. James Braid design, not remotely long, several notable short par fours and very good par threes. We will return.