Monday, July 31, 2006

Dr Strabismus Lives

From the Telegraph:

Revolutionary 'self-timing' eggs designed to overcome the perennial problem of how to avoid runny whites and overcooked yolks will appear on supermarket shelves in the coming months.
The eggs are marked with logos in 'thermochromic' invisible ink, which turns dark when it reaches a certain temperature.
Inks have been created to appear after three minutes to indicate a soft-boiled egg, after four minutes for medium and after seven minutes for a hard-boiled egg.
Shoppers will be able to buy the eggs of their choice in cartons marked 'soft', 'medium' or 'hard'.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Clear-Cut Case Of Incompetence

The collapse of the Doha Round is a matter of evil and idiocy, a case of outrageous incompetence, so bad that it verges on criminality.

Paras claim 700 Taliban lives

I found this buried in the Telegraph yesterday.

Paratroopers have killed more than 700 Taliban fighters during fierce battles in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday.

Isn't that an extraordinary figure. It is on the same scale as the death toll in the Lebanon. Why does Afghanistan seem to slip below the radar?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Royal Welsh Show Off

A leading agricultural show ended in disarray when a young woman performed an impromptu striptease among the cattle lines.
As security officers at the Royal Welsh Show rushed to the scene and tried to restrain her, she was hosed down with water normally used to wash the cattle, preventing them from getting a grip on her.
The stripper ended her table-top performance by throwing her thong into the crowd, which was returned on the end of a pitchfork. ...........

"penumbras" and "emanations"

Should the law protect us from kiss-and-tell bloggers?

Friday, July 28, 2006

the ongoing adventures of Farah D

Accordiing to The Times

SHE is a former magazine editor, a property tycoon's daughter, a would-be author, an international conwoman and a convicted fraudster.
Now Farah Damji has added yet another string to her bow: she has become Britain's first on-the-run blogger.
On Tuesday, in an entry entitled “Sea Air”, she wrote of how much she was enjoying not being in prison. “It’s so peaceful, the sound of seagulls replacing the screaming police sirens streaming up and down Kings Road.”

It may be a tad irresponsible of me but I find her nose thumbing pretty funny. Follow the story at or subscribe to the RSS feed here.
(Could have sworn that myspace didn't feature RSS last time I looked.)

Thursday, July 27, 2006


As the bombs fall, I can't help but think that - for all my hopes about breaking bread - neither sambousik in the Gourmet Express, nor a bottle of Clos St. Thomas at Cedar can be anything other than bathetic and trivial.

But then again, if I had never had a chat with Elia about the vineyards of the Bekaa Valley I might have a mental image of it as a desolate wasteland poplulated by loonies and fanatics.

So ladies and gentlemen, I present a random fact that may surprise you - the Lebanese constitution calls for the selection of a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minister, and a Shiite Muslim speaker of the Parliament - but alas, beyond that multicultural nugget, discern no hope.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tony's Crony

The collapse of the Doha round of negotiations at the World Trade organization is by any measure an unmitigated disaster for the poor and dispossessed of the planet.

Agricultural subsidies in the developed world are concrete overshoes for farmers and producers in the poorer developing world.

And who was the representative of the EU at these crucial talks? Who was it blaming everyone except himself so vigorously for the collapse? Peter Mandelson, the European Commissioner for Trade.

A man who had to resign twice from the British cabinet, and was subsequently kicked upstairs to the European Union by Tony Blair.

What on earth is Peter Mandelson's qualification for running anything? What has he ever achieved outside the black arts of spin.

Might the talks have succeeded with someone else in Mandelson's chair (Peter Sutherland for example)? We will never know. Blair won't give a monkey's because the failure of Doha won't really anger the voters, but I think it will emerge in time as a fairly inevitable result of one of his most cynical manoeuvres.

U.N. Peacekeepers

As of last month, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India each had almost 10,000 troops in blue helmets, while American soldiers accounted for just 12.

How to become a U.N. peacekeeper. By Daniel Engber
I'm astounded by that. I wonder how many Brits there are?

Ifs or Butts

A professional body double covered for Luke Wilson's out-of-shape rear end during the filming of My Super Ex-Girlfriend. 'Physically it was kind of a tough year,' says Wilson. 'I thought it might be a good time to sit on the bench for that scene and let some other kind of more athletic guy take over there.' The producers of You, Me and Dupree also called in a butt double to cover for Luke's brother, Owen Wilson. How much does it cost to hire a professional derriere?
Around $500 for an eight-hour day, but it costs extra for naked cheeks.

The key news, as it arrives.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Facts and Factions

On March 1st, Wikipedia, the online interactive encyclopedia, hit the million-articles mark, with an entry on Jordanhill, a railway station in suburban Glasgow. Its author, Ewan MacDonald, posted a single sentence about the station at 11 P.M., local time.

There is a good article in the New Yorker about the history and status of, plus the controversy that continues to rage around, Wikipedia. (Read the whole piece here.)

This has naturally sent me back to look at the modest Wikipedia page that I created about Merton Priory in April last year. Fifteen months later the page remains modest, but it is on version twenty so it is being edited every few weeks.

Speaking of Merton Priory, Paul has constructed a 3D virtual model of it in Google Sketch Up and we've been invited to a Merton Priory Trust Steering Group meeting early in August to show it off and see if it may be of any use to them.

Building it up has certainly raised some questions on Paul's mind about the orientation of the building so it will be good to have a chin wag with some real experts.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Maximilian Ulysses Reichsgraf von Browne

I always enjoy coming across folk who share my surname, so I am absolutely delighted to introduce Maximilian Ulysses Reichsgraf von Browne: Baron de Camus and Mountany (1705 - 1757).

He was an Austrain military leader whose "vehement opposition to all half-hearted measures brought him frequently into conflict with his superiors". That's the stuff.

What a great name. My five year old could well have been Max for short if I'd heard of it a few years ago.

Dive-In Movies

Regular readers may have guessed that the giddy social whirl I inhabit results more from finding myself at a loose end every other weekend than any implied social lionhood.

That said, next weekend, to celebrate its centenary year (1906 to 2006), the local and convenient Tooting Bec Lido has created a "swimming pool film bonanza. A magical open-air summer event for lido-lovers and cinema-goers alike".

Since the earliest days of cinema, swimming pools have been a source of fascination for film makers, allowing for an irresistible combination of dreams, longings and all manner of watery worlds and adventures. Many of early cinema’s first screen star celebrities were swimmers – athletic heroes and heroines such as Annette Kellerman, Buster Crabbe, and Johnny Weissmuller capturing the public’s imaginations in all their bathing-suited gorgeousness.

I'm booked for AbbeyFest on Friday, but Saturday at the Lido promises that:

Hollywood bathing belle Esther Williams plays legendary Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman in MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952). Kellerman, caused a public scandal as the first woman to wear a one-piece bathing suit on an East Coast beach in 1910. Complete with a boxing kangeroo, flying machines, a swim down the River Thames and an ‘acquacade’ finale featuring a Busby Berkeley synchronised swimming spectacular.

Ticket price to include a swim in the magnificent 100 yard pool, a Centenary drink and an evening of film.

Be there, or be square.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Too Much Perspective

I've returned my five year old to his Mum at the end of the weekend. A fortnightly ritual that seems to upset him nearly as much as it does me, though I am compelled to keep a stiff upper lip through it for his sake.

So what do I get on the radio as I'm driving back? Yup, the Benedictus from The Armed Man, perhaps the most poignant and desperately moving seven and a half minutes of music written to date in this dewy, though already despoiled, century - nay - millennium.

David: Oh sorry...well this is thoroughly depressing.
Nigel: It really puts perspective on things, though, doesn't it?
David: Too much, there's too much fxxking perspective now

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I don't believe it

Queuing up with my five year old in the supermarket today I noticed that Mars Bars seem to have been renamed as Believe.

Very odd. I still haven't got used to Marathons becoming Snickers.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Too Hot to Sleep

I had meant to go along to the launch party of Merton High Street's newly refurbished Nelson Arms (as opposed to the Admiral Nelson of Whitton) yesterday evening, but due to shenanigans from herself - "so no change there" - I couldn't make it on time.

I did manage to turn up at about 9:30 when an "open mike" music session was in progress and actually found it rather charming and engaging even though the odd performer had me daydreaming wistfully of the Antares Auto-Tune 4 Pitch Correcting Plug-In.

Speaking of amateur performances my adagio for string quartet is coming along quite nicely and my teacher suggested that I should try and get a quartet actually to play it.

(She also in the same session said that I had missed my vocation and that I should be writing movie soundtracks .... if I can't blow my own trumpet - or bow my own string here - where can I?)

I still think that the piece needs work. I grant that I want it to be slow and to shimmer, and that the aural interest is intended to be be as much harmonic as melodic but at the moment I think that the viola or cello players would die of boredom before they got to the end of it. One problem is that you can clearly hear the vestigial keyboard upon which I worked it up in the arrangement. I'm over the hump though and I'll definitely finish it ..... but it is difficult to concentrate in this heat.

Robbie Robertson wrote the song that is my soundtrack for this week. He pulls off sultry, while I can't seem to get past sweaty:
Yeah, I can see it now
The distant red neon shivered in the heat
I was feeling like a stranger in a strange land
You know where people play games with the night
God, it was too hot to sleep
I followed the sound of a jukebox coming from up the levee
All of a sudden I could hear somebody whistling
From right behind me
I turned around and she said
"Why do you always end up down at Nick's Cafe?"
I said "I don't know, the wind just kind of pushed me this way."
She said "Hang the rich."

Catch the blue train
To places never been before
Look for me
Somewhere down the crazy river
Somewhere down the crazy river
Catch the blue train
All the way to Kokomo
You can find me
Somewhere down the crazy river
Somewhere down the crazy river

Take a picture of this
The fields are empty, abandoned '59 Chevy
Laying in the back seat listening to Little Willie John
Yea, that's when time stood still
You know, I think I'm gonna go down to Madam X
And let her read my mind
She said "That Voodoo stuff don't do nothing for me."

I'm a man with a clear destination
I'm a man with a broad imagination
You fog the mind, you stir the soul
I can't find, ... no control

Catch the blue train
To places never been before
Look for me
Somewhere down the crazy river
Somewhere down the crazy river
Catch the blue train
All the way to Kokomo
You can find me
Somewhere down the crazy river
Somewhere down the crazy river

Wait, did you hear that
Oh this is sure stirring up some ghosts for me
She said "There's one thing you've got to learn
It's not to be afraid of it."
I said "No, I like it, I like it, it's good."
She said "You like it now
But you'll learn to love it later."

I been spellbound - falling in trances
I been spellbound - falling in trances
You give me shivers - chills and fever
I been spellbound - somewhere down the crazy river

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It is too hot today

Where was I? I forgot the point that I was making.

I said if I was smart that I would save up for a piece of string, and a rock to wind the string around.

Everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.

Throw the crib door wide, let the people crawl inside. Someone in this town is trying to burn the playhouse down.

They want to stop the ones who want a rock to wind a string around, but everybody wants a rock to wind a piece of string around.

If I were a carpenter I'd hammer on my piglet. I'd collect the seven dollars and I'd buy a big prosthetic forehead.

And wear it on my real head

Banlieue 13

I bowled up last night to try and see "Entertainment .... My Arts" which is advertised as part of AbbeyFest but it seemed to have been cancelled, so I ended up kicking back with Garfield for a while, feasting on his jerk pork and probing him for initiate secrets of the barbecue pit.

The upshot was that I got home earlier (and soberer) than I had planned which was no bad thing as I found that I had locked myself out.

I was then pleased and surprised to find myself parkouring over the six foot back fence, up the outhouse roof, onto the bathroom ledge via the drainpipe, and through the awning window, in the blink of an eye, once I worked the route out and got a run up, as I felt that this reflected well on the time I've spent in the gym, but then I was taken back to realise that the same athletic feat was probably available to any stick-thin scally or chav who might be passing by.

I've closed all the windows now.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Parachute, Photograph, Spaghetti

I see that youtube is now serving up more than 100 million videos a day.

Hey as long as it is making greatness like this Ali G interview with Noam Chomsky - the world's No.1 intellectual according to Prospect Magazine - more widely available it is on the side of the angels as far as I am concerned.

PS If anyone is interested here is my take on the Prospect top 5.
1 Noam Chomsky - arse
2 Umberto Eco - arse
3 Richard Dawkins - arse
4 Václav Havel - geezer
5 Christopher Hitchens - geezer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

More Times to try Mens' Souls

In a blow to regular tube passengers, the downward escalator at Colliers Wood station will not be repaired until October, the Guardian has learned.

It has been out of order since May with Transport for London (TfL) advising passengers with mobility problems to use alternative nearby tube stations meaning for some, this station is out of use.

Laura Wallis, a representative from Tube Lines, the company who handle repairs on the underground network, said: "We offer our apologies and appreciate that it's an inconvenience for the public.

"Our performance is improving until last year it took 26 weeks to refurbish an escalator and we have now brought that down to 10 weeks."

Two stops further down the Northern line, Morden station has been under repair since June 2004.

Frank settled down in the Valley
and he hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife's forehead
He sold used office furniture out there on San Fernando Road
and assumed a 30,000 dollar loan at fifteen and a quarter percent
put a down payment on a little two bedroom place

His wife was a spent piece of used jet trash
Made good Bloody Mary's
Kept her mouth shut most of the time
Had a little Chihuahua named Carlos
that had some kind of skin disease
and was totally blind

They had a thoroughly modern kitchen
Self-cleaning oven, the whole bit
Frank drove a little sedan
They were so happy

One night Frank was on his way home from work
He stopped at the liquor store
Picked up a couple of Mickey's Big Mouths
Drank 'em in the car, and with a Shell station
he got a gallon of gas in a can
Drove home, doused everything in the house
Torched it
Parked across the street laughing
Watching it burn
All Halloween orange and chimney red
Then Frank put on a top forty station
Got on the Hollywood Freeway
and headed North

Never could stand that dog

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hoody Hoodia

I may be a bit late to this, but Cameron's hoodie love-in, is just as ridiculous as Blair's support of hoody bans last year.

Lately, as the father of a five year old, I have spent many a summer evening round the sort of park that the Daily Mail caricature of Britain suggests should be full of menacing, hooded, disaffected substance-abusing teens, but I just don't see it. It seems to me that the vast majority of the teenage boys there are engaged in good natured, pick-up football games. If anything, the occasional reprobates swigging cider and swearing on the swings are more likely to be girls.

There's a paddling pool in the part as well, and - come to think of it - when I look at Ben and his crew splashing around in their swimming costumes I don't see a lot of evidence of the looming child obesity epidemic either.

Try the Public Information film below:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Lover Speaks

I wandered along to the office after the gym yesterday because I had left my mobile phone behind after watching the Friday Abbeyfest jazz the night before.

Surrey Strings get people to play the bandstand on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes, and as I bowled up there was a couple on stage making quite a pleasant sound so I thought I would take that in for a track or two.

"Here's a song I wrote about twenty years ago," said the bloke on bass, "that we were lucky enough to have covered by Annie Lennox," and they launched into "No More I Love You's".

Serendipity indeed. I've always considered it one of the best songs of the Eighties - even before Ms Lennox made it famous - and here was the writer on bass, with his wife on guitar and vocals, belting it out at the Mills on summer afternoon.

I watched until the end of the set and then nipped up the stairs to get my phone (and perhaps a beer from the fridge) to find that there was a message with a change of plan asking me if I could take my five year old to his school fair which meant that I rushed off on that mission and didn't get a chance to embarrass the musicians by gushing over them when they came off stage.

I doesn't say who they are on the Surrey Strings Events page either.

All in all Surrey Strings are on the side of the angels. They were showing me all the scores of instruments that they were reconditining to send off to Cuba last week for Luthiers Sans Frontieres. They've been doing it for nine years apparently.

They also provide my music lessons. I'm arranging a tune for string quartet at the moment.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Relentless Self Improvement

I've got a rare weekend with few commitments.

I suppose that I could devote it to developing "judgments, decisions and policy on: stem cell research, SDI, Nato composition, G-8 agreements, the history and state of play of judicial and legislative actions regarding press freedoms, the history of Sunni-Shiites tensions, Kurds, tax rates, federal spending, hurricane prediction and response, the building of a library annex in Missoula, the most recent thinking on when human life begins, including the thinking of the theologians of antiquity on when the soul enters the body, chemical weaponry, the Supreme Court, U.S.-North Korean relations, bioethics, cloning, public college curriculums, India-Pakistan relations, the enduring Muslim-Hindu conflict, the constitutional implications of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, Homeland security, Securities and Exchange Commission authority, energy policy, environmental policy, nuclear proliferation, global warming, the stability of Venezuela's Chavez regime and its implications for U.S. oil prices, the future of Cuba after Castro, progress in gender bias as suggested by comparisons of the number of girls who pursued college-track studies in American public high schools circa 1950 to those on a college-track today, outsourcing, immigration, the comparative efficacy of charter and magnet schools, land use, Kelo, health care, HMO's, what to do with victims of child abuse, the history of marriage, the nature and origin of homosexuality, V-chips, foreign competition in the making of computer chips, fat levels in potato chips, national policy on the humanities, U.N. reform, and privacy law".

But, to be honest, I'm more drawn to bursting bubble wrap. There really is nothing like Manic Mode ... it's breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Time Out

Eat your way around the world in London may be on its summer break but the research continues.

I subscribe to Time Out. This week, the Food & Drink Reviews came up with Mimono "authentic Georgian food in Kensington", so 197c Kensington High Street (W8 6BA) is added to our to-do list.

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
and Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on my my my my my my my mind.

Another Time Out section that is worth following is "London Lives". Last week this was about Brikena Muharemi, who fled persecution and war in Kosovo for a British education and a career as a barrister.

More power to her elbow I say, and I've learned from her profile that traditional Albanian fare is available at Era (182 Broadhurst Gardens NW6).

It seems that Era serves up fli , which is "like Cornish pasties but with no filling".

Let's be frank, a Cornish pasty with no filling is dough, but none the less Era can still expect a visit from Coraider's inspectors.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Upon this Rocky

I see that there is a trailer available online for a new Rocky movie. I'm delighted - though a little disappointed that it seems to be called Rocky Balboa rather than Rocky VI.

I've got a great question for you - although the context of the post may give you a little clue.

Q. Only two artists have ever been nominated for best screenplay and best actor Oscar nominations in the same year for the same film. Who are these unlikely twins and what were the films?
A. Orson Welles for 'Citizen Kane' and Sylvester Stallone for 'Rocky'.

I sometimes wish that Stallone had concentrated more on screenwriting because I think that he has a natural way with a strand of colourful streetwise romanticism "I want ya out of here instamatically. I'm sick of seein' ya hang around like a freakin' spider. Go out and live, enjoy life" - that could have made him the inheritor of a great American tradition. But he didn't and he isn't. A wise man once said - I think - that 'Rocky' was a remake it was just that no one had ever made it before.

Actually I've got my own idea for the ultimate Rocky movie - let's call it Rocky XXIII because there's room for plenty more sequels before it.

It may be a plot spoiler, but I notice that Talia Shire doesn't appear in the trailer and there is a brief transient shot of Rocky at what might be a grave. Could this mean that Adrienne is dead and Rock a widower?

In that case, and considering how religious a chapel haunter and blessing hunter he was in Rocky II, I wonder if he might not join the Church.

This could give us sequels with Father Rocky, Bishop Rocky, Cardinal Rocky and then Pope Rocky.

In the ultimate showdown, in the Last Days (the Rapture even), Pope Rocky comes out of retirement to fight Beelzibub on Mount Sinai for the souls of the fallen.

That's my pitch at least.

Call me. Let's do lunch.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Details of My Life ....

........... are quite inconsequential... very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum... it's breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Darfur is Dying

Well follow the link at last to the online game.

For once in my life I just don't know what to think. Is it exploitative or trivial? Does it draw attention where it is needed?

These are the times that try men's souls.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Con el Chum-Chum

Chris Howell's latest post having reminded me of our Pamplona jaunts, I have managed to google up details of the album that I bought when we were there. My copy of "Con el chum-chum de las peñas" disappeared years ago and was on cassette anyway so I haven't even got a machine I could play it on today, but I do remember it well. (I could hum it if you were here.)

Anyway, here via Muscia de Navarra is a track listing:

Himno de las cortes de Navarra; Aldapa, Viva Navarra y sus fueros;
Alegria de Iruña; El carrico del helao, Anaitasuna; Tres cosas hay en Pamplona; Armonía chantreana; Bat, bi, hiru, lau; Los del bronce; Manos arriba, esto es un atraco; El bullicio pamplones; Ea, ea, ea, el bunker se cabrea; Uno de enero; Irrintzi; Chis, chis, que vienen, que vienen; La jarana; Todos queremos más; Muthiko alaiak;La loles; Patrones, patrones; San Juan; Geuria da eta; La unica;
Pobre de mi

Winners all.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Though my weight seems to have stabilised around a disappointing fourteen stone rather than the twelve and a half that I was looking for, I still get to the gym most days.

I've been alternating weights one day with cardio the next for some time now, but as I'm still getting fitter and stronger I think that I need to look at that again as I find it hard to fit in a whole body workout in an hour on days when I do resistance training.

I think that I am going to have to start alternating chest and arms one day, with back and abs the next, and legs and cardio on the third, and just put in some extra cardio work on days when I get any free time.

I don't do any specific shoulder strength exercises as both are pretty much shot (one from skiing and one from rugby) and I have to warm both of them up pretty thoroughly before I can do any bench presses or pull ups at all.

When I think of them plus my weak left knee and left ankle in light of the rather sedentary life that produced them, I marvel that people retired from careers in top level sports can walk at all.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


We decided this morning that it was time for my five year old to try riding his bike without stablisers, and headed off the park with his cycle and a spanner.

I took the stabilisers off, he mounted, I gave him a push start and off he went. We were both absolutely amazed, he just seemed to take to it straight away without consciously learning at all. I'll never forget the look on his face, he was gazing down over the handlebars astounded at himself.

Two minutes later a school friend turned up and they cycled off together.

I wonder if he'll ever happen on such a joyously effortless accomplishment again; I certainly can't remember ever pulling one off myself.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Football in Manhattan

There are alternatives to the Colour House Theatre for watching the World Cup.

Among the many valuable lessons I learned while watching the FIFA World Cup on the town in New York City is that it is de rigueur, among the type of Brazilian model who passes her afternoons stalking SoHo, to dress with an extreme emphasis on patriotism and comparatively meager attention to modesty. I had never known it was possible to wear so much yellow and green while not really wearing much at all.
....... read on.

Seventh of the Seventh

We have come so quickly around to the first anniversary of the 7/7 bombs in London.

I want to record an apparently trivial thing that happened that day: I got my first inkling that something was wrong when Michael from Bangalore popped up in Microsoft Messenger checking that I was OK.

He, in India, had heard of the outgrage before I was aware of it in SW19.

One world.

.... which reminds me .....

Back in the Eighties - and certainly before Achtung Baby, Thump the Clouds tried to write the ultimate U2 song for a bet. This was in the days of the more overtly religious U2, and what we came up with was:

One man come
One man come

Twelve men come
Twelve men come

Children come
Children come

Kingdom come
Kingdom come

One way
One way

One Word
One Word

One day
One day

One world
One world

Our virtual Bono certainly came up with goods there in a way that the real one hasn't matched for a while.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Arnold Ridley

Almost certainly because of my lack of gravitas, the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme has made me think of Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey in Dad's Army).

Arnold Ridley was no where near as ineffectual as Pvt Godfrey affected to be.

He fought and was badly injured at the Battle of the Somme which amongst other things put paid to his career as a centre three-quarter for Bath although he did serve as club president in the Fifties.

He wrote a famous play "The Ghost Train" and founded a movie studio in the Thirties and then served at the rank of Major in World War II, but became immortal playing a character who:

never did very much at all, except for a period during the first World War when, as a stretcher bearer in France, he won the military medal. He never wears it because he feels it would embarrass Captain Mainwaring, who hasn't got any medals. And worked for Forty-five years in the gents outfitting at the Army and Navy stores, and returned to live in a small cottage with his two spinster sisters, Dolly and Cissy, at Walmington-on-Sea.
Maybe Godfrey and Ridley weren't so different after all? They were certainly both better men than us.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

36 Years Ago

I did a deal last night with my five year old, agreeing that he could stay up and watch the Germany v Italy World Cup semi final provided that he had had his bath, brushed his teeth, and was clad in his pajamas before the 8pm kick off. As it happens he fell asleep on the couch during the first half and I put him to bed at half time, but I'm sure that Tony Blair would not approve and we can expect legislation in the next Parliament after he changes his mind about making way for Gordon Brown.

Strangely, this took me back to the 1970 World Cup when I was eight. In those days, colour TVs were rare, special, expensive and exotic. I remember that my Dad got a last minute invitation to watch the Group D England v Brazil game in the home of someone who actually owned a colour set, and that he took me and my younger brother Vince with him to watch the match even though it was so late that we were already in our pajamas.

At the time I was mortified with embarrassment at this turn of events, but now I look back on it fondly. Trivially, I can still remember the problems that the cameras seemed to have with contrast in the Mexican sun, so that play near the touchlines in the shadow of the stadium was all but invisible, and less trivially I can still vividly remember Gordon Banks making the greatest save in history from Pele in that very game.

Would it have been so terrible in the great scheme of things if Benny had been up until ten thirty and seen two goals in the last two minutes of Italy/Germany?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Being Green

Writing about Arif Mardin has brought his erstwhile clients Scritti Politti to mind. I have been in thrall to Green Gartside ever since I heard "Wood Beez" in the Philharmonic in Cardiff in the mid Eighties.

Internet reports of Green's birth suggest various years in the mid to late Fifties and alternate between Cardiff and Cwmbran but all agree on June 22nd - my birthday as well - so I hereby elevate him to the exalted rank of Welsh Born Icon. (As I recall he had the same haircut as the Princess of Wales for much of the Eighties.)

I surpised to find that there was a new Scritti album out on Rough Trade so I've added it to my wishlist to remind me to pick it up; seven years since the last one. With only four albums of new material in the last twenty one years, it's not really all that heavy on the wallet keeping up to date with the catalogue.

Monday, July 03, 2006


We went to Tate Britain yesterday to see the exhibition of big old Constable canvases and met in the nearby Morpeth Arms.

Googling the pub to get some directions before I set out, I found that, in 1845:
The pub was purpose-built to serve the wardens of notorious Millbank Prison, on the site of which the Tate Gallery (Tate Britain) now stands.
It turns out that Millbank was the goal where prisoners were held before being shipped out to the colonies.

Jeremy Bentham, the utilitarian philosopher was involved in the design. He was the guy who came up with the notorious Panopticon.

The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience"

Bentham predicted:
Morals reformed - health preserved - industry invigorated instruction diffused - public burthens lightened - Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock - the gordian knot of the Poor-Laws are not cut, but untied - all by a simple idea in Architecture!

That's right, exactly as we have been seeing for the last month and a half on our TV screens in the uplifting and improving "Big Brother".


Sunday, July 02, 2006


I trooped off to the Colour House Theatre yesterday to watch England get beaten by Portugal. It was a sombre affair.

I would have been better off watching it in one of the bodegas of Stockwell over some bolinhas de bacalhau and vinho verde, at least there would have been a party afterwards.

On second thoughts, perhaps the defeat of Portugal's co-linguists Brazil later on in the evening might have dampened the atmosphere a little.

Paul and I discovered the Portuguese bars and cafes of Stockwell during "Drink your way around the Northern Line, a project that pre dated both "Eat your way around the World in London" and "A Welsh Born Icon". (We both realised last year that anyone with a little local knowledge should not be surprised to find a Brazilian in Stockwell.)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Arif Mardin

I was disappointed to here in the week of the death of Arif Mardin at the age of 74.

Not long ago, I heard a great documentary about him in a Radio 2 series on record producers. (It was available online at the time but doesn't seem to be available any more.)

His biography is extraordinary.

He was born and lived the first third of his life in Istanbul in Turkey. A lover of jazz and big band swing since his teens, in 1956 - in a pivotal event in his life, he went to see Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra perform during a State Department-sponsored tour. (Did Dizzy invent this sort of good-will music ambassador role?)

He met the Gillespie, and also gave some of his compositions to group member Quincy Jones. Jones recorded them for broadcast on the Voice of America, and then helped Mardin secure the first Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music.

After Berklee he went to work at Atlantic Records as an assistant to Nesuhi Ertegun, a fellow Turkish expatriate who had founded the legendary label with his brother Ahmet.

It was at Atlantic that he made his name, overseeing, along with producer Jerry Wexler and engineer Tom Dowd, Aretha Franklin's matchless 60s output.

Then, over the nest forty years he produced everyone you have ever heard of:
Carly Simon, The Young Rascals, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Average White Band, Anita Baker, the Bee Gees, Judy Collins, Phil Collins, Culture Club, Roberta Flack, Hall & Oates, Donny Hathaway, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Melissa Manchester, Manhattan Transfer, Modern Jazz Quartet, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Scritti Politti, Queen, Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Jewel and Ringo Starr ......

I just don't know where to start writing about that so I'm not going to bother.

What I love about 1967 is that after six barren years and Columbia, Aretha Franklin switched to the Turkish run Atlantic records and made the classic album "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You" arranged by Mardin and driven by the redneck Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and that event tells us more about multicultural and multiracial harmony than any number of po faced lectures.