Sunday, 29 January 2017

Thou Mayest Rule Over Sin

Steinbeck's East Of Eden comes close to being my favourite novel, in part because of my personal circumstances when I read it. But you don't need to know about that. It's boring.

The 1955 filmed version is tersely (and accurately) described by my precious Halliwell as "Heavily over-directed and rousingly acted." It does not even attempt to include the full grand sweep of the novel but has a fair stab at condensing the biblical themes and it features James Dean in his first starring role. So not bad. 7/10. Mind you that means there is still space for someone to do a better job with a great source text.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

One Hundred Years Ago

On 25 January 1917 Lieutenant Robert Edwin Phillips effected the rescue of his heroic commanding officer from an open battlefield in Kut-el-Amara. He did so under intense fire and with no view as to his own safety. For valour he was awarded the Victoria Cross. His commanding officer (who sadly died of his wounds) was also awarded the V.C. - the only instance of a commanding officer and his adjutant receiving that highest medal for the same incident.

Robert Phillips was a native of West Bromwich and an alumnus of King Edward VI Grammar School Aston. I have mentioned him before but on this the centenary of his heroism I write with gratitude at having this morning attended a small but near perfect ceremony at a chilled but sunlit West Bromwich Cenotaph during which a plaque celebrating his heroism was unveiled by his family. Such remembrance is being accorded in the home towns of all six hundred and twenty-eight Great War Victoria Cross recipients. An under-publicised but dignified project. From the service this morning:
May God grant to the living grace, to the departed rest, to the church, the Queen, The Commonwealth and all people Peace and Concord, and to us and all the faithful, life everlasting, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you now and always. Amen.  

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Revenge Of The Fatted Calf ... But Reason To Be Cheerful

I started Friday by having a full English in the glad company of my mother. It was jolly nice but I felt guilty when I got back home, so waited a decent interval and then went for a run. This was ill-advised and sure enough the right calf muscle gave out warning signs as I hit the quarter hour. I stopped at the first sign but, as they say, it's deja vu all over again. Bollocks.

a most equable host
That reason to be cheerful? Well I'm going to let the idiocies of halfwits on both sides of the Trumpian commentariat wash over me. Good news for you I suppose. No, all I am going to do is to urge you to go on BBC iPlayer and catch up with Neil Brand's excellent Sound of Musicals. Another good advertisement for BBC 4's output but don't make me think about the licence fee. Too complicated. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Old Ones Are The Best

I've been reading that Walter Bagehot again. In his masterwork, The English Constitution, he praises 'intelligible government'. What would my boy Walter make of the Donald? Try these for size:
If the highest post in conspicuous life were thrown open to public competition, this low sort of ambition and envy would be fearfully increased. Politics would offer a prize too dazzling for mankind; clever base people would strive for it, and stupid base people would envy it.
... the end of it always is, that you put a man at the head of society who very likely is remarkable for social defects, and is not eminent for social merits.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

What A Waste Of Words

A wise person told me that the proper response to the inaugurating of the Donald will be to shed a tear for the world. There is something in this. However the thought occurs to me that waking on Friday to a Hillary Clinton presidency would be almost as deadening for the soul - another wave in the cruel statist tide. Sad times.

Nichola Sturgeon. I mean bloody hell, talk about overstaying your fifteen minutes of fame. I care not what she thinks her little bitty piss-ant economy is entitled to over and above what the rest of us citizens have to put up with. Not being Alex Salmond is hardly a life skill, but I struggle to comprehend what else recommends her to us.

giants in the earth
Nick Clegg. Some people just don't get it do they? Here's an expensively well-educated polyglot and yet he has not lost his mastery of getting it wrong. Nick, son, don't (as you did on Radio 2 this morning) presume to tell me what I did or did not vote for in the referendum. Deal with it.

If we get the politicians we deserve then we must have done something pretty gruesome in a previous life. I am currently enjoying John Bew's Attlee biography Citizen Clem, which only serves to accentuate the intellectual poverty of our political times. There were giants in the earth.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Slaughtering The Fatted Calf

By which I mean the troublesome lower leg muscles. Avid readers will have put up with me emoting on this subject before. Anecdotal evidence (that is to say whingeing at rugby club bars) tells me that this is the injury common to retired rugby players. And not just the fat old buggers like me - the same problem affects some far finer specimens of male athlete.


I have been known to announce that I am giving up road running (it's really shuffling with style) because of the regularity of the painful tweaked gastrocnemius. My last retirement was in the Autumn of last year. I was going to confine myself to short outings on the treadmill. But as I contemplate the dire state of my belly after Christmas I feel the pull of the open road - only outdoor running gives you that righteous glow. So here we go again. Same old, same old: this time I'm going to take it easy. Baby steps etc etc. Thus far we are seventeen minutes into this latest dabble. All clear thus far. Insofar as there is a plan I aim to add five minutes to the longest run each week, stopping at an hour. I'll keep you posted. Lycra and Oakleys are, of course, mandatory.

We're just back from a great weekend at the country estate. After a nice mooch round Beaumaris we took our repast at the Panton Arms in Pentraeth - I've been complimentary about this plain looking pub before but the praise bears repetition. I had slow roasted belly pork on mustard mash which would have passed muster in any wannabe fine dinery. Trust me - when it comes to belly pork, I'm a professional. You can tell by my own belly. Oh, and the beer's good as well.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A Prospect Of Vengeance

Published in 1989, Anthony Price's A Prospect of Vengeance is his eighteenth novel. Great title but I'm afraid this one left me underwhelmed - unusual because I am an admirer of much else of his work. Too much of the tale is told in unpersuasive dialogue and, possibly me getting thicker, I didn't really get the denouement . As I come to think about it, I'm pretty sure I am getting thicker. Eheu, tempus fugit. You never lose it you know - Latin O Level, I'm talking about.

Reasons To Be Cheerful ... And Reasons Not

After the holiday splurge of blogging comes the inevitable new year lull while I try to cobble together something to write about. Of course there's plenty out there, but you have to make the effort to galvanise it into prose. So here goes.

Here's a paragraph I read this morning and which is so good that I should share it. It is from Rory Sutherland in the Spectator. He analyses the imperfections (nay imperfectability) of economics, the 'dismal science'. He explains how he confronts the dogma that underlies the forecasting failures of economists:
I try to solve this problem myself by being passionately and unquestioningly dogmatic about stupid things which don't matter: I believe the true word of God can only be expressed in 17th century English, am a great fan of the monarchy and am convinced, without a shred of empirical support, that the drink Dr. Pepper has real medicinal powers. The great thing about this is that by clinging to irrelevant certainties, I am free to change my mind about things which are actually important, such as the minimum wage or the need for free movement of labour. The ability to hold irrelevant things sacred is, I think, a great intellectual defence of conservatism.
Well, amen to most of that - I'm not so sure about Dr. Pepper but I think you'll find that this is true of a good Barolo.

The world is readying itself for the Trump presidency. It's already getting messy. In just the past few days we've had a run-in with Meryl Streep, allegations of a lurid blackmail tape and a bizarre press conference. Let's take them in turn.

Streepgate. La Streep used the platform of the Golden Globes (where she was getting yet another award) to condemn Trump's belittling of a disabled reporter. I have to be even handed here - I almost always find the right-on bleatings of luvvies tiresome and self-indulgent, so I should not put up with this instance just because I find Trump repellent. Of course she had a point. The man gives every indication of being a prize shit. His bellicose reaction (in which he offered the opinion that Streep is one of Hollywood's most overrated actresses) spoke volumes. For fuck's  sake Donald, rise above it.

That sex tape. Does it really exist? Who knows and until someone actually proves it one way or the other this is a non-story which has the liberal press foaming at the mouth and risking a gift to Trump of enough rope with which to hang his accusers. Mind you, it will be balls-achingly funny if it transpires to be true.

That press conference. Out of this world. The man has zero humility. Piers Morgan speaks well of him.  Enough said.

And the irony of this? To the extent he has a political agenda, there are plenty of good things on it. But if only, if only, it was someone less palpably immoral implementing it. And by the way Donald, an election where you lost the popular vote is not one that you won 'easily'. Still, in a gruesome sort of way, it's going to be funny watching him, so funny.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Twelve Films At Christmas: 12

So that's that for another year. Number twelve was Stakeout, a light but entertaining action comedy showcasing the considerable comedic skills of Richrad Dreyfuss. We had seen this at the cinema the thick end of three decades ago. Getting old is a pain but what are you going to do? 6/10.

Not exactly rock and roll but we heralded the new year by doing our tax returns this afternoon. I'm due a refund - which is nice. That task out of the way, we quaffed Pol Roger. Which is very nice.

Terrestrial television coverage of British racing today switched to ITV. Sad to relate they seem to judge that the public service remit is met by giving a platform to that noisy pillock, Matt Chapman. Which is not nice.