Friday, June 24, 2022

Work is what we do, but it is not who we are


At 82, the jazz legend will this weekend be one of the oldest performers ever to grace Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage. He recalls his career highs, from making his hip-hop classic Rockit to working with Thundercat

When the pandemic took the now 82-year-old jazz legend Herbie Hancock off the road, his half-century passion for Nichiren Buddhism came to the rescue. “I could have been miserable over what I was missing out on,” he says, from his Los Angeles home, “but for the first time in 50 years, I ate dinner with my own wife every night, and slept next to her in my own bed. It was a blessing. Music is what I do, but is not what I am.”

I am very taken with the opening paragraph above from the Herbie Hancock interview. 

The cab is picking us up at half past twelve today. Thence to Gatwick, thence to Seville for the weekend. 

I probably won't be blogging while we are there, but I will likely back-fill when we return, a daily entry serving as a kind of comfort blanket for me over the years.

So what's the future

No matter where I go 

I will still belong in Andalusia

Where good, honest men grow weak

And the rich grow strong

Something's wrong

Sir Tom Jones is at least as wise as Herbie Hancock. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

What a Carrie On

When we went to see Tina Brown on "The Palace Papers" recently she mentioned in passing that she  thought Lord Geidt, the Queen's Personal Private Secretary for a decade, was a "safe pair of hands' and a great loss to the Palace.

As ever when I hear of someone from the Royal Household I check them out in my online archives. This time it yielded a story. I've got email conversations from 2011 that are copied to one "Christopher Geidt." They are couched as if they are just a general evaluation of the character sets the Monarchy website that we had developed and supported at the time. They weren't. Do you remember when the Queen delivered a speech in Gaelic during a historic visit to Ireland that year? 'A Uachtaráin, agus a chairde' she began. All the flim flam I was getting was designed to make sure that the Irish orthography (fill your boots here)  would be correct when the text went up, and all done without me having a clue. I remember the next day when her words were 100% correct on the Palace website and wrong (unaccented, plain) in the domestic press.

A rule of mine is "Do not ever go toe to toe with people who can combine that level of foresight, attention to detail, and discretion. You will only come off second best." I thought of it again when Geidt resigned as Boris Johnson's ethics advisor after being put in an "odious position."

Thought of it again this week after Geidt said the claims of Boris trying to get Carrie a job “could be ripe for investigation”. For all that the, ahem, networking for jobs proposal was kicked back by, among others, The Royal Foundation, the revolving door between No 10 and the Household is real. Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, who made the approach on behalf of BoJo was previously the Cambridge's Private Secretary. Samantha Cohen, Director of Office: 10 Downing Street, was previously Assistant Private Secretary to HM The Queen and that is just off the top of my head.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Don't mind me. I just live and work here.

The series 3 of the Umbrella Academy that Netflix promised me for my birthday isn't there yet, but the page still says it is coming today. 

Luckily yesterday gave me another Netflix story. One of their shows was filming at Abbey Mills. Mick the site manager has told me that it was something called Treason. The cast and crew are listed on IMDB at in case anyone is interested. 

I went and had a gander when they were setting up. I had no idea filming was so elaborate a business. I saw a lorry forklift crane, a cherry picker, a huge generator truck etc. all round the site.

When I went back later for more nosey parkering, I was astonished to find that all they seemed to be doing was filming a scene in the MED Cafe adjacent to the William Morris, and that all these gigantic external rigs and the scores of technicians seemed to be concerned with little else other than getting the lighting right inside it. Part of the pub seemed to be converted into the actors wardrobe, there were loads and loads of people milling about. I was amazed.

It certainly gave me a new respect for what Simon Crane (Ollie's brother) does for a living. If it took all this palaver just to film a few actors in character having a chat over a cappuccino, imagine what is involved in helming an action scene in a huge Hollywood movie.

It makes me start to wonder if real workaday human beans such as myself are being reduced to extras as the whole world is becoming a film set. Take this from outside Phil and Rachel's in Cardiff earlier this month

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

To Kill a Mockingbird

 As I pulled up outside the house yesterday, Lee and Vera were coming of the place opposite. They told me that they were off to the theatre in Hammersmith. (I didn't catch if it was the Riverside or the Lyric.) I said that I myself was off to see To Kill A Mockingbird at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue.  When I got there it struck me that the Giegud, the Apollo, and the Lyric are practically adjacent and that having seen Get Up Stand Up! in February and Jerusalem last week I have ticked off the current productions at all three. Maybe PG is right about the Wood being a hotbed of arts enthusiasts.

To Kill A Mockingbird was great, just as John and Lorraine said when they saw it in March, something Andy and Ollie also confirmed. More confirmation that my friends and family are practically keeping the West End afloat on their own.

Monday, June 20, 2022

The rhythm of life

I'm not crying, I've just got something in my eye.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Fathers' Day

What was it you used to say Dad?  "Money is like manure; pile it up - it does nothing but stink, spread it around though and it encourages young things to grow.”

Anyway, I dropped a few hundred quid on a tenor sax for Paul and Jenny's daughter Emily yesterday. Had been talking to her on the bandstand at the Mills over the Bank Holiday when she expressed an interest in moving on from her (already accomplished) flute to saxophone.  Also she subsequently endeared herself to me by taking my side against her mother in a discussion of the EmMaj9 "James Bond" chord.

Put my hand in my pocket as a tribute to you John Patrick Browne, you cantankerous old bugger. While the rest of the world is wondering why I, a man with a 60+ Oyster Card, am showering gifts on a teenage girl, you will be looking down on me from heaven and smiling.

And that is all that matters.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

I am too tired to be frightened

The Crown Estate published its annual results a couple of days ago, might as well have put them on a bonfire in the garden for all they attention they attracted.

Capital value: The value of the Marine portfolio increased by 22% to £5.0 billion, driven largely by offshore wind, in particular leasing Round 4.

I wrote about this twice in February 2021 (by yer, and over by yer). The Queen owns, and can dispose of as she sees fit, all the rights to offshore power generation in UK territorial waters. Tony Blair's government ceded this to the Crown in 2004. And nobody except me seems to think it was outrageous! It is not as if all the North Sea oil was hers, it is a precedent set comparatively recently for all it sounds medieval. The value of this "gesture" to Her Majesty increased by a billion quid last year. (OK strictly 0.9 billion but you get the point.) Where are the headlines? 

Before I get back down off my soapbox, let's raise the small matter, once more, of the Government's insane half a billion pound investment in the OneWeb satellite constellation (74 employees at the time the money was spunked up). I have been banging on about this for two years now. They launched their satellites from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Oops, what with Russian sanctions, Russian retaliation 'n all. Chalk another one up to Dominic Cummings, strategic genius.

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Lazarus Project

Here's the trailer for Paapa's latest. I reckon it is about five years since Frankie met him when he turned up at their coffee shop and later introduced us at the Monday night pub quiz in the Antelope. Certainly he is still on an upwards trajectory.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Seeing the future

Bookfest finished yesterday with Abdulrazak Gurnah. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021. (Does that make him the reigning champion until 2022's is announced?)

Sometimes it is good just to sit back and reflect on how far Fiona et al have come in the last fifteen years. The first event I can remember is Kate Williams on Lady Hamilton's Attitudes at the Chapter House in 2017.

I was at Bookfest on Monday. Yesterday I was at home watching Fiona Hill on Russia, America, and the Future of European Security over Zoom as part of the LSE Festival.

It isn't there yet, but it should be on the LSE Player in a day or two.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

That's Mia's call sheet for yesterday at Central on the right. She is opening as Lady Anne in Richard III tonight. We can't go and see it though. She's in the second year and productions aren't open to the public until the third. It is probably for the best. I would be very surprised if I could listen to her saying "Come, now towards Chertsey with your holy load," without laughing and lowering the tone around Henry VI's funeral.

I've never seen a call-sheet before. She sent it when she was starting to wonder if she would be able to make it to see Jerusalem with us at the Apollo last night. I had offered her the spare ticket when Carol dropped out a couple of weeks ago. I told her not to worry. There were two intervals so she would manage to get to see at least some of it. She made it for the whole thing in the end after persuading her director to give her her "notes" the next day. It is a keepsake for me now. I imagine she passed it over to reassure us she wasn't messing us about. Tickets for Mark Rylance in Jerusalem's revival being like hen's teeth. (Had to toss a coin to see which drama school niece got the spare. This time Beth lost, but I am sure there will be next times.)

As for Jerusalem itself, what to say? Helen messaged me this morning as follows: "I thought it probably one of the best plays I’ve ever seen." I concur.

As I was watching it I could imagine, drinking, laughing, moaning, lying and suffering with the cast's waifs and strays, ne'er-do-wells and naïfs in the pub John used to drink in when he lived in Skewen, as opposed to a caravan in the Wiltshire woods. No greater tribute can be paid to its larger than life authenticity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Palace Papers

 I took Emma and Nicola to see Tina Brown talk about her book The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil at the Wimbledon Bookfest last night. I worked with them when we relaunched the monarchy website in 2009. 2009! and we carried on working with the Palace until 2014.

I thought it would be fun to sit between two Royal Household insiders and raise the occasional eyebrow at Ms Brown's yellow journalism. I was right.

Nicola doesn't work there any more, but Emma does. I think she had fun being at something frivolous after all the pressure of organising the Jubilee. I didn't get any gossip out of her as she is the soul of discretion; something she disguises very well by telling you about people being nice as if she is passing on a titbit. Apparently Donald Trump is very engaging and polite, especially with the peons, vassals and serfs (people like me and you) his public persona suggests he wouldn't even notice.

I have decided to appoint her as the royal correspondent of my kitchen cabinet. Second member after Rod.

Monday, June 13, 2022

The History of the World Part 1

 I need to start putting some meat on the bones of the weekend in Seville with the Bomber that we have booked.

We are flying out from Gatwick on Friday 24 June, 2022 at 16:05 and arriving in Seville at 19:45.

On Sunday 26 June, 2022 we fly from Seville at 21:35 and arrive at London Stansted at twenty past eleven.

When I booked this I didn't think coming and going from different London airports would be an issue. This was before National and London rail strikes were announced by the RMT union. Officially the union says that it will hold 24-hour strikes on Tuesday 21st, Thursday 23rd and Saturday 25th June, so theoretically it shouldn't have any impact on us at all. Old and cynical as I am however, I think the situation will need monitoring. 

The Gatwick Express goes from Victoria.

The Stansted Express goes to Liverpool Street.

Nothing much exciting is gonna happen Friday night if we don't land until quarter to eight, so maybe just a meal at the Hotel Abanico. The accommodation is already booked.

Saturday, what man tinkin' break down like this; day - Real Alcazar de Sevilla - evening flamenco (Teatro Flamenco Triana).

Sunday Cordoba ( and from there to the airport. 

Sound like a plan?

Sunday, June 12, 2022

King Solomon

 King Solomon has been featuring in the 1,001 Nights for the last few days.  (We are up to to Night 571 as of today, thanks f'r asking.) I didn't realise he was such a significant figure in Islam (as well as Christianity and Judaism) and in, what would you call it?, Middle Eastern culture (?) in general.

In fact, it has dawned in me, that all I know about him at all is that he demonstrated how wise he was by proposing to cut a baby in half, and summat about the Queen of Sheba. With respect to the latter, that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba are often found together in the same sentence is the limit of my knowledge.

How is this to be rectified? Let's see. "Nearly all evidence for Solomon’s life and reign comes from the Bible (especially the first 11 chapters of the First Book of Kings and the first nine chapters of the Second Book of Chronicles). " Reading that will be a start then. 

"The biblical Book of Proverbs contains collections of aphorisms and other wise teachings attributed to him. Like his father, Solomon was also revered as a poet. The biblical Song of Solomon is attributed to him." Ditto.

Also there is an "In Our Time" from the Melvster. It is ten years old, but I think we can overlook that as he is supposed to have reigned in the early 10th century BCE.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Today's bad pun

What can I say? It cheered me up this morning. Don't try and tell me you haven't got more of a spring in your step just from having seen it.