Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Sometimes The Best Cure Is To Reach For The Good Stuff

No I don't mean that I have been drinking too much Barolo, though I think I probably have. No what I mean is that high art (and indeed low art but that is not my topic today) can raise you quickly out of the slough of despond.

I don't suffer my black dog days nearly so often these days but I am still taking the pills that have been so important a part of my taming of the illness. Just as you are always an alcoholic (I'm not, before you ask), so you are always a manic depressive. I try to be open about it, without boring the pants off people. My name is David R, and I'm a manic depressive. 

Anyway, I was having one of those black dogs last week and I reached for the good stuff to help bring me out of it. No, not the Barolo. Citizen Kane. I first saw this film as a teenager and my Dad told me that it might just be the greatest film ever made. This made me watch it with interest. Well, whether it is the greatest movie of all time is, of course, impossible to tell - there will always be candidates for that accolade that I haven't seen. But I'll tell you this for nothing - if you haven't seen Citizen Kane yet, you really must get on and do so. There's no excuse - it's available for free on iPlayer.

It is an oddity of personal taste that dictates that for a middling mind like mine, sometimes art of just below the top level is more amenable. It as though the very good stuff is too rich a mixture. Hence I like Titus Andronicus. Hence also, if presssed to nominate my favourite Orson Welles film, I would usually choose Touch of Evil over Kane. But ask me which is the greater artistic achievement and I would unhesitatingly point to Citizen Kane. Watch it, re-watch it. Treat yourself. 98/100.


A Dignified Job

My old mate Walter Bagehot got a mention from the BBC Political Correspondent the other day. It was in the context of the constitutional mechanisms that have whirred so efficiently into life in the five days since the death of Queen Elizabeth II. You can say what you like about poor old Britain but it is hard not to agree that we do pomp and ceremony rather well. And that, over a century and a half ago, was the point that good old Walter was making. The role of the monarchy is to be dignified and thereby to underwrite the efficient administrative secret that keeps the country on track. Like Bagehot, I am a constitutional monarchist, probably a tad more romantic in my soul than was Bagehot.

And this is the point - Elizabeth understood her Bagehot and played her role steadfastly and well. As the past few days have liberally confirmed, her subjects largely appreciated the work she did and they wish the new King well as he gradutaes from the longest apprenticship in history. There will be some naysayers who will self-indulgently tout their right to dissent and to behave execrably in the face of a funeral. That is indeed their right but they demean their cause.

Anyway, the old rythms are the best - the Queen is dead, long live the King      

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Taking A Rest From What Passes As Labour

It is fast approaching crunch time for my academic efforts. I have therefore been spending an unhealthy amount of time with my non-contemporaneous contemporaries, Messrs Shakespeare and Bagehot. After a decade (very much on and off) of being intimidated by the inadequacy of my word-count, I now find myself six thousand words over the top and I don't want to let any of my precious prose go. I'll get over it.

Having at last delivered a full draft of the thesis on Sunday (with all those offending extra words) I played golf with the lads yesterday evening and had my best round for  a year or so. Which was nice. I'm not geting carried away though - I was dependent on an outrageous slice of good fortune on my nemesis hole, the 13th at Royal Pype Hayes. I think that hole owed me mind. 

I have (undeservedly but hell, it's my life) granted myself a day away from Shakespeare and Bagehot today. Now such self-rewarding largesse can often be counter-productive as it induces a depressive tendency to guilt. But, lo, today has been fine, more than fine in fact. I went for a run this morning and both troublesome heels were in co-operative mood. Which was nice. Then this afternoon I watched a great film. More of that anon. But first my review of a lesser picture but one I nonetheless recommend.

Do you get what I mean when I say a film is a nice weekend film? Of course you do. Well, Dream Horse is just such a film. Yes, it is a tad soppy but it is based on a true story that rather defies belief. You don't have to have an interest in horse racing to enjoy it but bringing sucha predilection to the party will not do any harm. Its cast of familiar British support actors are joined by two rather grander stars, Toni Colette and Damian Lewis, who both do creditable Welsh accents. This does not masquerade as anything it is not - it is good old-fashioned entertainment. 60/100.

And now for something completely different. Nashville is not a film to be taken lightly. Insofar as it has a plot, it rambles all over the place. Characters weave in and out of shot and conversations intrude with, overlay and generally fragment each other. This is viewed by some as Robert Altman's masterpiece, by others as self-indulgent tosh. I love Altman. This is his masterpiece. 89/90. 

Monday, 8 August 2022

A Job Well Done

The Commonwealth Games end today. ICW's daughter H will be in the closing ceremony - she is apparently a Peaky Blinder. I must take the advice of my near neighbour AK and start binge-watching this drama - Peaky Blinders, not the Games.

As for the Games, well I have never harboured any shame about being a Brummie but I am not sure that I have ever been more proud of my hometown than over the week and a half of the Games. We have done a bosting job. For my part I went (as already reported here) to a session of the rugby and last week I went to five sessions of the athletics. What a treat. I was accompanied by a different person on each visit to the Alexander Stadium: my brother WJR on the first day; my mother; DN1; JRS; and finally the Groupie. A good time was had by all. Personal favourites for me were the hammer throw and the decathlon pole vault - not world class performances but spirited and athletes enjoying the roars of a full crowd. Grandpa would have loved it. I've bought the tee shirt - wearing it now as it happens.

Monday, 1 August 2022

The Games Come To Brum Just As Football Comes Home

I was up early on Friday in the company of ICW. We were making the small hop to Coventry for the opening session of the Commonwealth Games Rugby Sevens. I analysed the organisation at the venue with the expert (take that with a large dose of salt) eye of a 2012 Games Maker. There were teething problems at the venue (the excellent Coventry Stadium) and clearing security took too long, such that despite our early arrival at the venue we missed the first couple of matches. No matter, the volunteers started to find their collective voice and the general atmosphere of bonhomie went undisturbed. I can pay it no better compliment than to say that it put me in mind of London 2012.

The rugby was good. Sevens (never a discipline that suited a mud-plugger such as the Pig) requires deftness, vision, and buckets-full of speed. Unfortunately the English men seemed clumsy, tunnel-visioned, and slow as they got dismantled by Samoa. Oh well. 

ICW was on a Games marathon of his own on Friday. Having spent the morning with me, he was up and in spectating mode once again for the evening session at the swimming. He jovially reports that it was an excellent night, bar having to hear the all-conquering Australian anthem seven times. Oh well.

The Games were just up the road in Sutton Park for three days as the site of the various triathlons. The locals were out in force and rewarded by a lot of English gold medals. For today I am here at my desk but playing golf later with the Monday Night at PH lads. Tomorrow I have the first of five days at the athletics, accompanied on this first day by WJR. This will bring back memories of all the athletics we were privileged to see live as youngsters in the company of our grandfather, W. Harry Hayward, a Vice President of the Amateur Athletic Association. He would have loved all of this on his doorstep. Oh well. 

Football's Coming Home. That excellent sentiment has become rather stale since it was given musical life by Skinner and Baddiel back in 1996. Well yesterday it at last made some sense as the England Women won the European Championship at a packed Wembley. That Germany were the beaten finalists seems somehow fitting. And it is nice to see that we can stage a major final without it being hijacked by a rogue tribe of coked-up piss-head savages.

Cerrtainly all of this uplifting sport serves as a welcome distraction from the unlovely spectacle of the Conservative Party tearing itself apart to find a successor to the awful Johnson. I cannot slide a fag-paper between the two candidates in terms of their lack of loveliness. Thankfully I don't have a vote. Never have I felt quite so divorced from my political instincts. Apathy Rules UK? Oh well.    

Monday, 18 July 2022

Bad Hair, Great Golf

Britain melts in a moment of heat - for the first time we have red weather warnings because of the extreme temperatures. I endured an uncomfortable drive back from Mon this morning because my ageing SUV has knackered air-conditioning. Air conditioning - one of those toys that used to be seen as a luxury but which we can now see as a necessity. The drought of 1976 seems a long time ago. I sat my 'O' levels that summer and we had to wear full school uniform, blazer included. But we were, as Monty Python observed, happy. I bet the exam room was a bit whiffy though - all that adolescent sweat in an age when deodorants were far from ubiquitous.  

So who has the bad hair? That would be Cameron Smith whose barnet even the Donald might deem inelegant. But, wow, the way Smith dismantled St. Andrews to win the Open was magnificent. I doubt he is troubled by my criticism of his coiffure. I hope he can find it in himself to turn down the Saudi/LIV Golf millions that are inevitably being promised to him but one has to doubt it. A pity - the last four days demonstrated that championship golf is played over seventy-two holes with a half-way cut and a one tee start.

Once the golf was over I watched Joker. This is a difficut film, one that divided the critics. My turn now. It is a super-villain origin story and is decidedly not for the kids. Quite rightly it carries an 18 certificate. 1980's Gotham is putrefying under the weight of its uncollected garbage and collapsing morally under the burden of societal divisions. From this cess-pit crawls Arthur Fleck, who is to become Joker. The film makes some bad decisions and its debts to Scorsese's Taxi Driver and King of Comedy can be distracting. However as a study of psychosis I found it compelling and Joaquin Phoenix in the lead is never less than magnificent - skeletal thin and fuelled by a diet of nicotine and hatred, he populates the film with a worrying meaning. The ending is enigmatic. Joker 2? Part of me hopes not but apparently I am wrong. 73/100.

Monday, 11 July 2022

Back Home In The Searing Heat

We have left beautiful Northumberland behind us and are back at Casa Piggy, where, I am delighted to report, all seems to be well. The cats have been collected from the cattery this morning and the Groupie is already hard at work in her transplanted office - because of the heat (it is what we meteorologists term bloody hot) she has moved downstairs to the North facing study. As for the Pig, well I have been to the municipal dump to decant historic garden rubbish and am now looking forward to a game of golf at the Royal Pype Hayes - haven't touched a club since tour three weeks ago. Expectations are low.

Reflections on Northumberland: it is an area that has a magic about it. Judging by the throngs at Bamburgh it is no longer quite right to describe it as an undiscovered secret but there is plenty of scenery to go around and I would recommend it to anyone. The village of Beadnell was a happy accident for us. We had booked relatively late in the day and Bamburgh was full. In fact Beadnell was a better alternative - not as crowded and a great base. I even ran from the village out to Seahouses and back on our final day. The Groupie and I then retraced my steps (and a little further) that afternoon. I slept bloody well that night.

A great holiday deserves a great film. We duly watched one. When Harry Met Sally - I use the descriptor 'great' quite advisedly. We have seen this film umpteen times but always find enough new in it. Its most famous scene is in fact rather de trop and yes I do know that it borrows some narrative tricks from another great film, Annie Hall, but this is a delightful piece of art - Baby Fish Mouth anyone? 90/100.

You know I got all excited about the golf ball I found at Dunstanburgh Castle. Well, would you believe it, I found another one as we walked through Seahouses Golf Club. I intend using these lucky charms at Pype Hayes this afternoon. We will quickly learn whether they are indeed lucky or just like every other ball I have ever owned - doomed.

And of course, whilst we were busy holidaying, the country lost a Prime Minister. No need for much comment from me. I have made clear my opinion of the shitbag Johnson. I could even find some satisfaction in the line that the generally hopeless Keir Starmer deployed at PMQ's as the cascade of ministerial resignations went on - the first instance of sinking ships deserting the rat. 

Now to go into my pre-golf mental regime - designed (badly) to avoid hitting the trees alongside the first tee. Om.