Saturday, April 30, 2016

Judgement Day

Last year we were at Judgement Day in the national stadium, with the Ruts (Icons passim). Dan Fish is starting for the Blues at full back in this year's game after a few matches on the right wing. I will be watching it on BBC2 Wales in a couple of hours, even though I am in London, courtesy of my patented iPlayer hack.

Cardiff's back row consists of three opensides and the Osprey's three blindsides. Possibly players could be better distributed round the regions in support of the national team's interests.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Collapse of stout party

I bowled up at the Merton Apprentice last night after work. It would be rude not to really as it is in the same building as the office.

They had two different dark beers on tap, and I am all about stouts and porters.

I had a pint each of Franciscan Well Shandon Stout from Cork in Ireland which is probably going to be a regular offering and a guest beer, Rocky Head Porter.

Finally, for completeness, I had a bottle of Belleville Snout Stout.

Snout Stout is made with bacon, while Rocky Head Porter is vegan. All boxes ticked between the two of them.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


1. I missed Avengers: Age of Ultron when it came out. Do I need to catch up on it before I see Captain America: Civil War which opens this weekend?

2. Is this really something a man in his sixth decade should be pondering?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Things that shouldn't exist: a continuing series

Smarttress with Lover Detection System is a revolutionary mattress composed of 24 intelligent sensors capable of capturing the “suspicious” bed movement. In this way if you are not at home, Smarttress will send an alert to your mobile when the mattress is being used. Order now at:
I am no expert but it seems to me that even thinking about installing a high-tech mattress to monitor what is going on in your bed when you aren't there might just conceivably be a symptom of Paranoid Personality Disorder. Imagine the possibility for misunderstandings (and indeed feelings of inadequacy engendered if thrust impact and frequency are part of the telemetry passed on to an app on your phone) when the kids decide to play trampoline on it.

Dr. Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht: First of all, there is something in the mind and spirit of an inventor which is understood only by that person, that drives him to create, to make something new that is serviceable to mankind. Perhaps, it is something of the artist merged with the mechanic along with a curiosity and desire to make things better and easier. And, there must also be the desire to be acknowledged as a creator.

Ariel Dorfman: Those who have never suffered the iniquities of exile cannot possibly understand the significance, the gravitas, of a mattress.

Dr. Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht: Spoken like a true Chilean-American novelist, playwright, essayist, academic, and human rights activist, my friend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


After reading his book, The Lightless Sky (Icons passim), I went to the Odeon last night to see Gulwali Passarlay (who arrived in Britain as a 12-year-old child following a harrowing, unaccompanied journey across Europe from Afghanistan) interviewed.

The audience was a little too us-and-them smug for my taste to be honest, but it was strange indeed to be seeing him on the same night as MPs voted by 294 votes to 276 to reject a plan for Britain to accept 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who had travelled to Europe. I'm a little surprised none of the specialists in the Odeon mentioned that it was happening, the amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill having been proposed by Labour’s Lord Dubs, who himself arrived in Britain as a child refugee fleeing the Holocaust in the 1930s.

Before the debate, Dubs told the Guardian: 'My message to Conservative MPs is that in 1938-39, Britain took 10,000 child refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. We were in the lead then and we could take an important step now. The least we can do is say this is a small number and they should be welcome here.'

He escaped because of the Kindertransport (German for "children's transport") an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often they were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust. Read about it in Wikipedia. It is humbling.

Monday, April 25, 2016

.... stays on tour

You get back home from rugby tour, strip off all the clothes you've been wearing for days and put them - including your jacket - straight in the washing machine. Then you take a shower, put a dressing gown on, fix yourself some simple fayre (a cheese sandwich along with a bowl of tomato soup) and turn on the TV. What comes on to soothe and restore after your weekend's exertions?

Drinking to Oblivion
Louis Theroux spends time at King's College Hospital in London - a specialist liver centre - where he immerses himself in the lives of patients in the grips of alcohol addiction and the medical staff trying to make them better.
Most people associate addictions with illegal substances, but it's alcohol which is the most common addiction in the UK.
Many of us drink- sometimes more than we ought to, but the patients Louis meets at King's are drinking far more than normal, sometimes to the point of self-destruction. Louis explores the effects this is having on the patients' lives and the consequences for their loved ones when drinking loses the social aspect and becomes a potentially fatal compulsion.
It's hard to know why people become addicted to alcohol and why it is impossible for some to stop drinking, even when it is killing them. To outsiders it may seem like an easy decision but it is nowhere near that simple. Louis spends time with patients and their families as they struggle to find a way out of their addiction to alcohol before it's too late.
Just what you need. Forty six harrowing seconds anyone? Here you go.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What happens on tour .......

The heroes of the hour, some little time ago

Here are Ben and Jonnie one Christmas - perhaps even their first - in primary school. They are fifteen  years old now; six feet two and six feet three respectively.

In the last game of our end of season tour today, we beat Bradford-on-Avon 14-12 thanks to a spectacular last gasp try from Ben and Jonnie's coolly slotted conversion.

Memories don't really come much better than this.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I got my bangin’ beach bod from an evil sea witch and so can you!

I am away on tour in Bath with the Ruts U15s eating and drinking like it is going out of style, but once I am back I am going to commit to get down to twelve stone dead by my birthday on June 22. Herewith the public commitment.

There will be no formal diet or exercise programme. I will simply do up my belt one notch tighter and let awareness and will power do the rest. What can possibly go wrong?

How did I get this fabulous beach body just in time for swimsuit season? I discovered a powerful fitness secret passed down from ancient European sailors. In other words, I made a bargain with a half human, half cephalopod, nightmare of the deep. That’s right, I got my bangin’ summer body from an evil sea witch and so can you!
You might be wondering how a body resembling that of a demigod could come from something so morally repugnant. The answer is simple: black magic. The malice fueled powers of an authentic sea witch are full of vital antioxidants that cleanse the body of pollutants while simultaneously polluting your very soul. You don’t need to fast. You don’t need to do a juice cleanse. All you need is a hefty dose of pure evil!
Now, make no mistake, this is not some fad diet. This is a lifestyle change — one that violates the laws of nature. So, to do this properly, you must fully commit to getting a genuine, verified sea witch. Don’t try to cut corners by visiting your local swamp or mountain witch. They simply aren’t powerful enough, and you’ll only regret it when you wake up to find your muscles morphing back into venomous snakes in the middle of the night.
Once you’ve located a fully certified sea hag, don’t be surprised if she tries to lure you onto a bed of sharp rocks. This is a standard greeting, so be polite and play along. You’ll want to give her an offering as soon as possible to prevent her from sucking you into a deadly whirlpool. You’ll know you have her full attention when you can no longer hear the deafening wails of drowned sailors. I enticed my wicked lady of the ocean with a pound of putrefied fish guts in a basket woven from my own hair, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
Once you’ve made your profane bargain, she will most likely cast you back to shore on the waves of a great squall. But fear not, your new beach body will be as indestructible as the island of trash-plastic gathering strength in the far reaches of the ocean. That is, as long as you never leave the beach; should you attempt to do so, you will immediately dissolve into sea foam. But, everyone knows that all good fitness plans require some sacrifice. At least you won’t have to give up gluten or dairy!

Friday, April 22, 2016

life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last

Prince is dead at 57. Let me think.

I saw Prince at Earls Court. I seem to remember that Tony Eyers was there with me, before his wife died. I've lost contact with him now.

I saw Prince at Wembley Stadium with my brother John, Chalice - with whom I was involved, no idea what she is doing now - and her friend and flatmate whose name I have forgotten.

I saw Prince at Wembley Arena with Jane, the mother of my child.

I had tickets for Prince when he played 21 days at the O2 but I gave them to Mark as I had to do something (I forget what) with my child.

I would have gone to Prince's London "Piano and a Microphone" shows, but he cancelled them

This is what sentimentality looks like the morning after.

Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning

I've finished reading No Way Home: A Cuban Dancer's Story by Carlos Acosta and I am about to engage with Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World.

I've written before (Icons passim) about how much Murakami reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut. Here's another example:
One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo’s fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.
Tell you the truth, she’s not that good-looking. She doesn’t stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a “girl,” properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there’s a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.
Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you’re drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.
But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can’t recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It’s weird.
“Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl,” I tell someone.
“Yeah?” he says. “Good-looking?”
“Not really.”
“Your favorite type, then?”
“I don’t know. I can’t seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts.”
“Yeah. Strange.”
“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?”
“Nah. Just passed her on the street.”
She’s walking east to west, and I west to east. It’s a really nice April morning.
Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I’d really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.
After talking, we’d have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.
Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.
Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.
How can I approach her? What should I say?
“Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?”
Ridiculous. I’d sound like an insurance salesman.
“Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?”
No, this is just as ridiculous. I’m not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who’s going to buy a line like that?
Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me.”
No, she wouldn’t believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you’re not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably go to pieces. I’d never recover from the shock. I’m thirty-two, and that’s what growing older is all about.
We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can’t bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She’s written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she’s ever had.
I take a few more strides and turn: She’s lost in the crowd.
Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.
Oh, well. It would have started “Once upon a time” and ended “A sad story, don’t you think?”
Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.
One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.
“This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you’re the 100% perfect girl for me.”
“And you,” she said to him, “are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I’d pictured you in every detail. It’s like a dream.”
They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It’s a miracle, a cosmic miracle.
As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one’s dreams to come true so easily?
And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, “Let’s test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other’s 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we’ll marry then and there. What do you think?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is exactly what we should do.”
And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.
The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other’s 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.
One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season’s terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence’s piggy bank.
They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.
Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.
One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:
She is the 100% perfect girl for me.
He is the 100% perfect boy for me.
But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.
A sad story, don’t you think?
Yes, that’s it, that is what I should have said to her.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

All or Nothing

I was out last night at ALL OR NOTHING - The 'Mod' Musical:"a trans-generational musical experience celebrating the unique sound of the iconic Mod band, THE SMALL FACES. Including an arsenal of brilliant hits like 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It', 'All Or Nothing', 'Tin Soldier', 'Lazy Sunday', 'Here Comes The Nice' and 'Itchycoo Park'."

We went - I suppose it is as good a reason as any - because the girlfriend of a guy in a rival team at the Antelope's pub quiz was in it. A darn fine Dusty Springfield she turned out to be as well. In a parallel development Mark Newham who performed (acted, sang, and played guitar) as Steve Marriott also works a lot with Sleeping Trees (Icons passim).

I obviously enjoyed it, as I bought a souvenir fridge magnet; a personal litmus test.

Its playing in the Vaults Theatre until 21 May. The Vaults is a multidsiciplinary arts space buried deep in the tunnels underneath Waterloo station and I am too cool for school.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I know where you live

I've been looking at the extraordinary detail of the location data Google keeps on me courtesy of the Android phone I have been running since my iPhone gave up the ghost.

You find your own personal Stasi file by logging on to your Google account and going to

Last Tuesday's timeline, for example, shows me going to work, picking up Ben from school in the afternoon and taking him to the dentist with complete details of routes.

That evening a few of us went to a quiz in the Sultan. On the way back I was persuaded to take an unconvincing "short cut." Notwithstanding the moral authority of Kevin, Frankie, Ollie and Andy, Google confirms I walked 0.5 miles to get the pub but 0.7 miles back after I left at thirty eight minutes past ten.

My route was best, but I am not sure how much of a consolation this is compared to the shock of what Google records of my meanderings.
Google: Merely an automatic system. Ancient computers ranged in the long caves deep in the bowels of the planet tick away the dark millennia. I think they take the occasional pot-shot to relieve the monotony. I am a great fan of science you know.
Myself: Good god! That’s a pretty unpleasant way to behave isn’t it?

Google: Is it? I’m sorry, I’m a bit out of touch. You must come with me, great things are afoot, you must come now or you will be late.

Myself: Late? What for?

Google: What is your name human?

Myself: Browne. Nick Browne.
Google: Late, as in, the late Brownenickbrowne. It’s a sort of threat you see. Never been very good at them myself, but I’m told they can be terrible effective.

Monday, April 18, 2016

More matter with less art

Paul Flynn MP says, "on Thursday last, 14th April, the Commons was treated to the best speech made in this Parliament.

"An unrivalled authoritative source as a soldier and a politician, Adam Holloway revealed the truth on the shared conspiracy that led 634 UK soldiers to the deaths and left 2,000 others to survive, maimed in mind or body."

The three paragraphs below are the meat in the sandwich as far as I am concerned.
From what I have seen on the ground since I became an MP in 2005—in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and last week in Syria with my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden—I believe that the full panoply of the Government machine has become dysfunctional in four overlapping parts. First, we have suffered from having a narrowly focused class of professional politicians who understand politics, not leadership, and who have almost no understanding of the complexities or realities on the ground. Secondly, we have ambitious civil servants who know that careers advance by staying close to what the rest of the group think. Thirdly, we have military officers with a civil service mindset who have also learned that the right answer is “we can do it” rather than “we can’t do it without…”. Finally, we have experts who are ignored or marginalised.
No experts were present at President Bush’s Prairie Chapel ranch when Prime Minister Blair agreed to support a US-led invasion of Iraq. Of course, Prime Minister Blair was determined to uphold the US-UK alliance, but he does not seem to have made even the slightest attempt to stop his friend President Bush from driving us drunk into Iraq. Back home, we needed to find reasons to go into Iraq, and we created the infamous dossier in a sort of late-night essay crisis. So late into ​the night did they work in Downing Street that they managed to read the bit from the top-secret, single-source report about missiles but failed to read the “analyst’s comment” section of the CX. They failed to see the comment that there was no way in which the missiles referred to could still be in the hands of Saddam Hussein.
Most of the public, as well as many people in Parliament, were in good faith convinced by the Prime Minister. Later, we convinced ourselves that we were in Afghanistan to “fight them over there” so that we did not have to “fight them over here”. Several years ago, after I had given a presentation to an immensely senior person in a previous Government, he asked me, “Adam, are you really saying that the Taliban are not a threat to the UK?” That revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda; it almost beggared belief. That difference between a local xenophobic tribal traditional movement and a death cult was not, and is still not, understood.
I recommend you read the whole thing at

I must try and pay attention to this Holloway fella, bearing in mind I blogged my bafflement over afghanistan only eight days ago (Icons passim).

Update: might be a good place to start.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I saw the sun rise as a man.

The universe started singing Summer the First Time by Bobby Goldsboro when people were getting outside my burritos and pickle backs yesterday. That has got to be a good thing right?

After the barbecue we went to see The Strums in the Charles Holden. This was the pitch:
To help me raise funds ahead of running the London Marathon for Guy's Cancer Centre Appeal, The Strums featuring my Dad (and Procol Harum guitarist) Geoff Whitehorn will be going a special gig at The Charles Holden, opposite Colliers Wood underground station on the Northern Line. Would love you all to come along and party with us. Free entry - just donate whatever you can on the night #StrumsDoCollywood
All in all a good day. Though the Rutlish Raiders got beaten in Ben's first Rugby League game.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The waves are risin' and risin'

The final full line up for Madness at Clapham Common is now confirmed. It includes - to my delight - The Hot 8 Brass Band, the N'Orleans outfit whose cover of Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing was such an ornament of ths excellent soundtrack album for the movie Chef.

I'm very much looking forward to Lee "Scratch" Perry as well

Friday, April 15, 2016

I'll give it five

I weighed twelve stone and five pounds this morning. That is the lightest I have been since I started exercising and stepping on the scales regularly. I reckon (Icons passim) that I was about fifteen stone in 2005.

I've not been on a diet. I lost a bit of weight in my dry January, a few pounds since, and the Holy Grail of twelve stone dead looks achievable now. I know that the Body Mass Index is pretty much discredited, but at 168 pounds I would be inside its arbitrary guidelines.

I have to prepare a shed load of burritos before the barbecue tomorrow, and my quality assurance standards will mean that I test a lot of the ingredients by eating them before I even turn up. The following weekend I am away with the U15s on a rugby tour; no chance of a green kale juice and an early night there.

Come May though I could well knuckle down and boil off the last five pounds that lie between me and the nirvana in which everything in my life becomes perfect because my waist is slightly narrower.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kimchi Bokkeumbap Pork Burrito, Anyone?

The Bomber has got his first Rugby League game this Saturday as Rutlish Raiders head up off to Maidstone to meet the Invicta Panthers in the cup.

Unfortunately this has put a spanner in the works of my prep for Andy and Ollie's barbecue that afternoon. I have promised (threatened?) them that I will provide burritos (like last year) to eat and pickle backs (Icons passim) to drink, and there's not going to be much time between getting back from the game and heading off to the party.

I picked up all the makings lunch time as I'm going to have to do my pulled pork overnight tonight in the slow cooker, rather than in the smoker on Friday night. Maybe I'll pump up the smoked paprika in the dry rub to get the flavour I'm after.

I have also come up with the idea frying up what is left of the kimchi my brother gave me (passim) with the rice that is going in the burritos and reserving its fermented juice for the brine shots in the pickle backs. I may well give the latter a test this evening as it might be a bit intense for the sensitive palates of Valley Gardens and in need of mellowing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Man Who Never Made Good 1914

A bungling bumpkin tries his hand at a series of jobs in this slapstick silent comedy - only to prove how useless he is at all of them. After being unceremoniously ejected from a bus (reason unknown; the beginning of the film is missing), our hapless hero becomes (among other things) a waiter, a soldier and a sandwich-board man. His true calling, as it turns out, is altogether less dignified...
You can watch it at the BFI website at

The reason the scene with the lead character as a sandwich board man was filmed just round the corner at Wandle Bank in Collier's Wood (a street sign is visible in the background).

The hours I could waste searching for locations on the (Google map integrated) Britain On Film at

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Everyone has a story that matters

Having read the book, I think I will go along to the Odeon and see Gulwarly Passarlay Monday week. Book tickets here.

I am also quite intrigued by the Adobe Voice software used to create the "story" above.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bronze Medal Position

According to the Surrey Rugby website, Guildford beat Warlingham 22-0* yesterday scoring three tries. That isn't enough for a bonus point so they can't overtake our Old Ruts U15s who finish third in League one in their first season in the top flight.

It is a huge achievement, especially when you consider our last league game against London Irish. We had so many injuries I had no idea - apart from Wesley at hooker and Jonah at outside half - who would be playing in any position when the teams ran out.

*It may even be that the score is not definitive if Warlingham haven't posted their tally yet, in which case we are even more comfortable.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Afghan triptych

I have finished reading The Lightless Sky: My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee.
'To risk my life had to mean something. Otherwise what was it all for?' Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan at the age of twelve, after his father was killed in a gun battle with the US Army. Smuggled into Iran, Gulwali began a twelvemonth odyssey across Europe, spending time in prisons, suffering hunger, making a terrifying journey across the Mediterranean in a tiny boat, and enduring a desolate month in the camp at Calais. Somehow he survived, and made it to Britain, no longer an innocent child but still a young boy alone. In Britain he was fostered, sent to a good school, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in 2012. Gulwali wants to tell his story - to bring to life the plight of the thousands of men, women and children who are making this perilous journey every day. One boy's experience is the central story of our times. This memoir celebrates the triumph of courage and determination over adversity.
Before that I read Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Defining Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan.
This is the gripping story of the men of the Welsh Guards and their bloody battle for survival in Afghanistan in 2009. Underequipped and overstretched, they found themselves in the most intense fighting the British had experienced in a generation. They were led into battle by Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, a passionate believer in the justness of the war who was deeply dismayed by the way it was being resourced and conducted. Thorneloe was killed by an IED during Operation Panther's Claw, the biggest operation mounted by the British in Helmand.
Dead Men Risen draws on secret documents written by Thorneloe, which raise questions from beyond the grave that will unnerve politicians and generals alike. The Welsh Guards also lost Major Sean Birchall, commanding officer of IX Company, and Lieutenant Mark Evison, a platoon commander whose candid personal diary was unnervingly prophetic. Not since the Second World War had a single British battalion lost officers at the three key levels of leadership.
Harnden transports the reader into the heart of a conflict in which a soldier has to be prepared to kill and die, to ward off paralysing fear and watch comrades perish in agony. Given unprecedented access to the Welsh Guards, Harnden conducted hundreds of interviews in Afghanistan, England and Wales. He weaves the experiences of the guardsmen and the loved ones they left behind into a seamless and unsparing narrative that sits alongside a piercing analysis of the political and military strategy. No other book about modern warfare succeeds on so many levels.
In 2014 I read The Places In Between.
Rory Stewart's moving account of his walk across Afghanistan in January 2002 was immediately hailed as a classic. Caught between hostile nations, warring factions and competing ideologies, at the time Afghanistan was in turmoil following the US invasion. Travelling entirely on foot and following the inaccessible mountainous route once taken by the Mogul Emperor, Babur the Great, Stewart was nearly defeated by the extreme, hostile conditions. Only with the help of an unexpected companion and the generosity of the people he met on the way did he survive to report back with unique insight on a region closed to the world by twenty-four years of war.
After all this reading and concerning the problem of Afghanistan I am (to paraphrase F. E. Smith) "none the wiser, just better informed." This is a very depressing conclusion.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

a blot on the escutcheon

The Archbishop of Canterbury has discovered he is the illegitimate son of Sir Winston Churchill’s last private secretary after taking a DNA test to prove his paternity, The Telegraph can disclose.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby had until now believed his father to be Gavin Welby, a whisky salesman and son of a Jewish immigrant, who was married briefly to his mother, Jane.
But the Telegraph pieced together evidence that suggested Archbishop Welby’s father was actually the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne, who served Churchill in Downing Street and during his retirement.
Sir Anthony Montague Browne! What a proud surname we share.

King Henry II: He's read books, you know, it's amazing. He's drunk and wenched his way through London but he's thinking all the time.

Myself: Right sentiment, wrong Archbishop of Canterbury. Roister Doister is my name, a lusty brute I am the same.

Friday, April 08, 2016

He reassembles, I dissemble

Forget about mindfulness and calm abiding, I (and many others sporting both an X and Y chromosome I imagine) have been greatly soothed and comforted this week by three episodes of James May's The Reassembler on BBC 4.

It breaks down like this; an amiable middle aged man in a shed puts objects back together from their constituent parts, while drinking tea and nattering. Imagine the excitement in the meeting in which they pitched the idea to the channel.
Slow TV became an unlikely hit in Norway in 2009 with a seven-hour film about a train journey, followed by a 12-hour knitting marathon and the live broadcast of a five-day boat trip which had thousands of people lining the route and was watched by more than half of the Norwegian population.
Reassembler III, in which a Japanese 80s Stratocaster gets the treatment spoke to me particularly directly. My electric axe is an Asian Fender knock-off as well. I remember the first time a string broke on it. Having no clue how to put another one on it, I laid the guitar on its back and started taking it apart from the front, only to discover (half an hour and numerous pieces later) that you restring a Strat by removing a plate on the rear and pushing a replacement through. No James May I.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Love and friendship

A new Whit Stillman movie (Icons passim) is on the horizon. That is good news indeed. It is being distributed by Amazon Studios. I wonder if that means that the series he pitched to them may still be on the back burner.

Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen's epistolary novel Lady Susan. I am sure the Old Ruts U15s will be fascinated to hear about that on the tour to Bath later this month. The hostel they are staying in is only 5 minutes from the Jane Austen centre there.

Then again, perhaps not.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Kurt Vonnegut Soft Toy

28 cm tall.
Not suitable for children under 3.

I didn't actually realise I needed one of these until this morning.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Korean Food Made Simple

My brother John - being related to me, and thus barking mad - is now making his own kimchi; Korean fermented cabbage, and left an enormous jar of it at mum and dad's this weekend for me to pick up. When I cracked the lid open I could hear it fizzing as the bacteria went about their work. I am a little bit afraid of Kimchi.

Last night, however, I put my fears aside and summoned up spicy beef and kimchi stew from the interwebs. Some ingredients seem exotic but you can get Yutaka Black Roasted Sesame Seeds in Sainsburys and I had mirin (a sweet rice wine) delivered from Amazon.

Good eating; prepare the beef in a slow cooker and then add the kimchi and let it integrate while you boil your rice.

See also Judy Joo on the Food Channel, and The Korean Republic of New Malden. Almost all the UK’s 10,000 Korean residents live less than five miles away from where I am sitting as I write this.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Joe Jammer

I went along to see Joe Jammer at the Half Moon in Putney last night. Kevin and Frankie gave me a lift. They were on the guest list as they know his missus. Six degrees of separation in action. What a great show it was.

Also, when I first moved to London in the 80s, I lived next door to the Half Moon in a flat whose bacchanalian household comprised me, John, Rod and Nick S. There's no blue plaque bar a virtual one in my sentimental heart. The stories I could tell but won't .......

Sunday, April 03, 2016

I Dream of Wires

I'm back in London in time to pick the Bomber up from training.

Point of order Mr Chairman; if you are ever in my mum and dad's house trying to sort out a problem with the lights, the fusebox for the conservatory is in the garage not under the stairs with everything else.

This will save you from lying on concrete in the dark for about half an hour trying to figure out which 5 amp fuse will isolate the circuit.

At least the garage unit has circuit breakers. The main box has old school hand threaded wire fuses. They really ought to upgrade to a new consumer unit. Arranging that would be a pain the backside though. Perhaps I ought to think about replacing the wire fuses with MCBs (like this) next time I am back.

Saturday, April 02, 2016


Prodnose: Quantum mechanics predicts that information is immortal, while general relativity says that black holes must destroy information forever. This paradox, first discovered by Stephen Hawking forty years ago, has pestered physicists for decades. But if black holes contain cold, condensed gravitons, then they may function like a supercomputer that actually preserves information.

Myself: Smoke some with your dog, no stress, no seeds, no stems, no sticks! Some of that real sticky icky icky, ooh wee!

Prodnose: You're back in Cardiff for another Groundhog Day weekend again. I assume.

Myself: Darn tooting, and information is being destroyed forever.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Ronnie Corbett RIP

“French wine growers fear that this year's vintage may be entirely spoiled due to the grape treaders' sit-in.”

“A cement mixer collided with a prison van on the Kingston by-pass. Motorists are asked to be on the look-out for 16 hardened criminals.”

“We will be talking to an out of work contortionist who says he can no longer make ends meet.”

“All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my right hand.”

“This is a message for seven honeymoon couples in a hotel in Peebles: Breakfast was served three days ago.”

“It was revealed in a government survey published today that the Prime Minister is doing the work of two men, Laurel and Hardy.”

“There was a fire at the main Inland Revenue office in London today, but it was put out before any serious good was done.”

“West Mercia police announced tonight that they wish to interview a man wearing high heels and frilly knickers, but the Chief Constable said they must wear their normal uniforms.”

“We'll be talking to a car designer who's crossed a Toyota with Quasimodo and come up with the Hatchback of Notre Dame.”

“We've just heard that in the English Channel, a ship carrying red paint has collided with a ship carrying purple paint. It is believed that both crews have been marooned.”