Sunday, October 02, 2022

Holy Socks

Pottering about in the kitchen, back in Cardiff in number 44 yesterday I came across a pristine pair of Holy Socks: Faith on your feet® unsullied in their packaging, packaging which is in turn wrapped in cellophane.

The particular model/brand/line I have is The Angel (size 6-11). The picture on the right is from the website. My pair is black, but that colour appears to be sold out,

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

This quite frankly is enough for me to be dealing with today what with everything else that is going on in my life.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

From the analyst's couch

Regular readers will know (passim) that I am currently working my way through 'Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World' by Anthony Sattin.

Early on, in a discussion of the Phoenicians he mentions that they actually did practice child sacrifice.

This got me thinking. The Phoenicians were Canaanites. Traders and sailors, their land was the coast of what today we might call the Levant, adjacent to, if not overlapping, Israel.

It seems to me that if the sacrifice of a son was a socially sanctioned practice in a shared culture, this casts an entirely different light on the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis. Rather than an incomprehensibly cruel deity demanding the life of Abraham's son, then arbitrarily and capriciously changing His mind, it becomes a divine warning against the practice. More like your Dad putting you off fags by making you smoke the whole pack one after another because he caught you sparking up a crafty prepubescent ciggie.

I cannot explain why such reflections occurred to me on the day of the son and heir's twenty second birthday. Not even Jordan Peterson could. At least I hope not.

Friday, September 30, 2022

C'mon, C'mon

Ben (born 30/9/2000) and cousin Mia (25/7/2000)
Myself: To visit planet Earth, you will have to be born as a human child. At first you'll have to learn to use your new body to move your arms and legs. You will learn to walk and run, to use your hands, to make sounds and form words. There will be so much for you to learn, and so much for you to feel; sadness, joy, disappointment and wonder. You will grow up, travel, and work. Over the years you will try to make sense of the happy, sad, full, always shifting life you're in. And when the time comes to return to your star, it may be hard to say goodbye to this strangely beautiful world.

Himself: You're crying.

Myself: No I'm not.

Himself: Yes you are. You're definitely crying. Say you're crying.

Myself: Happy birthday, Ben.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Roll the Dice

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter,
it’s the only good fight
there is.

Charles Bukowski  1920-1994/Male/American. Yesterday, this day last year, and tomorrow are all speaking to me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

C'mon C'mon: Trailer

Soundtrack Clare De Lune unless I miss my guess, though a different arrangement from Claude Debussy's piano original.

C'mon, C'mon comes free with Amazon Prime. If I watch it on Friday, himself's 22nd birthday, I will be in bits.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A Mad World, My Masters

Puttering along the High Street  this morning; a 20mph zone, God Bless you Mayor Khan! I was overtaken on the inside by an electric scooter in the cycle lane to my left behind the bollards.

This is actually insane. The bollards have long prevented us car drivers from getting out of the way of the ambulances racing to and from St George's hospital now they are penning pedestrians into narrow corridors that are half mothers with toddlers in push chairs, and half boy racers on machines with Formula E specifications moving faster than the actual traffic.

TFL: Electric Scooters

Rental electric scooters (e-scooters) are the only way to legally ride an e-scooter on public roads or in other public places within London - and even this is limited to specific boroughs. It is still illegal to use privately-owned e-scooters or other powered transporters on public roads....

We want to explore new, environmentally-friendly forms of transport that can be used to reduce road congestion in London - but we need to make sure that any alternatives are safe for both users and non-users alike.

The current rental e-scooter trial trial is helping us test the best ways to protect the public.

Rental e-scooters have specific safety features installed. For example, they are limited to a speed of 12.5mph and have lights that are always on throughout any rental.

Our current trial of rental e-scooters is expected to run to November 2022.

Yeah right, that would explain today's cognitive dissonance. Nothing against e-scooters myself, they look like they might be useful fun, but let's get some joined up thinking going on as opposed to ignored platitudinous nonsense.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sianel Pedwar Cymru

I popped out to the Royal Standard yesterday. Hardly a surprise I will grant you, but I stayed longer than I had intended because they were showing the Wales Poland game. "Wales suffer Nations League relegation after Karol Swiderski pounces for Poland." Boo! Cries of "shame."

The devil, as ever, is in the details. The pub was showing S4C's coverage in Welsh. The Standard, for all that it is in the 'Wood, is so Irish it is more like Oirish, and my Oirish DNA thrilled and trilled. What could be more Irish than an expat pub in England showing the footie in Cymraeg?

In a not unrelated development, when I heard the news on Radio 4 this morning their pronunciation of "Giorgia Meloni" sounded more like "Georgia Maloney" to me. I spent several fruitless but imaginatively rewarding minutes wondering how an Irish lady had managed to be elected as the head of the most right-wing Italian government since Mussolini. "We might disagree politically," I remember thinking, "but praise where it is due, the colleen must have something about her to be sure."

Sunday, September 25, 2022


I bought a physical book yesterday, a hardback with actual paper pages as opposed to recycled electrons in a Kindle or Audible edition. I genuinely can't remember the last time I did that, which probably explains why the contents of Browne Acres' bookshelves are looking a touch stale.

I'd gone along to the Wimbledon Bookfest Sunset Festival to see Anthony Sattin in conversation with William Dalrymple about his book Nomads. (We do the e-commerce for Bookfest so I try and get along to at least one event every time it is in session just to keep my finger on the pulse.)

I was very taken with it. Money quote:
Although theirs seems to be the shadow side of our story, the nomad story is neither less wonderful nor less significant than ours. In the second century BCE, for instance, after the Roman Republic defeated Carthage and became masters of the Mediterranean, when China flourished under the Han emperor Wu and trade inched its way along the nascent Silk Roads between the Yellow river and Europe, Xiongnu nomad power stretched from Manchuria to Kazakhstan and included parts of Siberia, Mongolia and what is now China's Xinjiang province. At the same time, Scythian nomads and their allies controlled much of the land between the Black Sea and the Altai Mountains in Kazakhstan. Put together, these nomad territories were larger and more powerful than either the Roman or Han empires. And in contrast to the familiar claim that these mobile people were primitive and isolated, we know from burials that their leaders dressed in Chinese silk robes trimmed with cheetah fur, sat on Persian carpets, used Roman glass and had a taste for Greek gold and silver jewellery. All this raises the possibility that these nomads were the masters of a linked-up trading world that stretched from the East China Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
Very much along the lines of what my reading from the Decameron to the 1,001 Nights suggests; much has been lost and we trudge around ruins with dust in our torch beams.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Never knowingly under stimulated


Petemonk and Alice discuss the upcoming new play. As far as I can tell it is a nostalgic lament for the good old days when gays were real men as opposed the the limp-wristed, lisping apologies you get today. Nostalgia catches up with all of us in the end.

Just off a call with mum who is only two years older than him and, frankly, less engaged. Something to be said, I conclude, for being a cantankerous old bugger.

We all learned from Dad, the Zeus of snarky dissent.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Hello and welcome to Jazz Club

Louis Balfour: Hello and welcome to Jazz Club. Yolanda Charles' pH Project presents its music with  intricately arranged elements that allow unprepared moments to emerge, with a nod or glance signalling accents or arrangement changes. The  interplay and rhythmic possibilities are numerous, which allows the  musicians to enjoy a highly creative experience.*
Myself: Great.
Louis BalfourYolanda  is well-known to music fans and industry professionals worldwide. In  2020, she was awarded an MBE for her services to music. Project pH  features the skills of London-based guitarist Nick Linnik, who provides a  stunning display of highly compelling soloing as the newest member of  the band. The dynamic and versatile Laurie Lowe on drums, is known for  his work as part of the Preston, Glasgow & Lowe trio as well as a  myriad of names in the UK jazz scene. Pianist Hamish Balfour brings a  wide range of experience as a composer and arranger. His training in  both classical & jazz and as a dance music producer, gives him the  perfect mix of skills for the band sound.
Myself: Great.
Louis Balfour: The voices of the band are provided by the superb soulful delivery of vocalists Paris Ruel and Adeola Shyllon.
Myself: Nice!
Oh, get over yourself! It's not like you have to come with me. Breaks down like this, dropping off a birthday card at Jonnie H's last weekend I realised it was an entire year since I went to Ronnie Scott's with Andy and Ian to see Kurt Elling featuring Charlie Hunter  (passim). I'd dropped a 21st birthday present off at the Hendries' (same day last year) on they way to the tube to get to to that you see and synapses fired along the lines of  Proust's madeleine.

I WhatsApped Andy and he replied suggesting we pick something out from the EFG London Jazz Festival in November, so SpiceJazz Soho at the Spice of Life it is on the 11th. A gig every fourteen months is hardly living in each other's pockets.

* This is genuinely what the blurb says ........... Nice!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Over Gardens Out

I'm not in truth much given to staying in and vegging out of an evening. Last night though life caught up with me so I lay on the couch watching "Do Revenge" for no other reason that it was number one on Netflix's streaming chart despite only being released on Friday.

It turns out that neon bright, over-designed high school comedies are my thing after all. Who'da thunk it? 

There may come a day when I can resist a Yankee movie in which a character called Eleanor owns an emotional support pet lizard named Olivia Colman after our national treasure Oscar winner, but that day is yet to dawn.

Further, “The Cis Heteronormative Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League” (slam dunk, you listening Megan?) reminds me of a story I have been told in confidence about a private school with a Boarding Fee of  £13,788 per term. This post will fix it in my mind without breaking Chatham House rules.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What is it like?

Auden on China; BBC 16th January 1939.

What is the Chinese war like? Well, least I know it isn’t like wars in history books. You know, those lucid, tidy maps of battles one used to study at school. The flanks like neat little cubes, the pincer movements working with mathematical precision, the reinforcements never failing to arrive. It isn’t like that at all. War is bombing an already disused arsenal, missing it and killing a few old women. War is lying in a stable with a gangrenous leg. War is drinking hot water in a barn and worrying about one’s wife. War is a handful of lost and terrified men in the mountains, shooting at something moving in the undergrowth. War is waiting for days with nothing to do, shouting down a dead telephone, going without sleep, or sex, or a wash. War is untidy, inefficient, obscure, and largely a matter of chance.

So begins China and World War II - Part 1, episode 234 of The Rest is History podcast. The quote made me think of Ukraine. Indeed several other parallels arise during Tom Holland and  Dominic Sandbrook's conversation with Rana Mitter.

Roll on Part 2. I am listening to more and more podcasts. Since Spotify started supporting them seriously and I realised I could access my Echo speaker "everywhere" group from it I can play them throughout the house using the phone as a remote control while I do this and that, or indeed one thing and another.

Further, I woke up this morning to hear on the Today Programme news that a BBC Podcast Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story had revealed new details about his fatal plane crash on the way to Cardiff City. This came only a day after a US judge quashed a Baltimore man's murder conviction in a case that spawned hit true crime podcast Serial.

Something is stirring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Trip to Echo Spring

Olivia Laing's widely acclaimed account of why some of the best literature has been created by writers in the grip of alcoholism

In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. 

All six of these men were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often, they did their drinking together: Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafes of Paris in the 1920s; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973. 

Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever's New York to Williams' New Orleans, and from Hemingway's Key West to Carver's Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery. Beautiful, captivating, and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.
Well that's this month's Audible book sorted. This one though is free content from the Audible Plus Catalogue that John told me about last year (Icons passim), so September's credit lives to fight another day.

Monday, September 19, 2022

A life of service

I read David McCullough's biography of President Truman last year. On August 25, 1950, in anticipation of a crippling strike by railroad workers, he issued an executive order putting America’s railroads under the control of the U.S. Army, considering the intervention critical as he had just ordered American troops into a war against North Korean communist forces and much of America’s economic and defense infrastructure was dependent upon the smooth functioning of the tracks.

A telling detail is that in the afternoon the day before,  Truman had to go out to the White House South Lawn to host a reception for nearly nine hundred convalescent veterans from nearby military hospitals, among whom there were amputees and others who moved forward in the receiving line on crutches and in wheelchairs attended by nurses in starched white uniforms. Such garden parties for hospitalized veterans had been an annual tradition at the White House since 1919. Along with the First Lady, several of the Cabinet were present with their wives, as were Admiral Nimitz and General Bradley. The Marine Band played, strawberry ice cream and lemon punch were served, and for more than an hour Truman stood warmly greeting his guests, only once glancing over his shoulder in the direction of the Cabinet Room, not that there was any sign he resented interrupting knife-edge negotiations, he considered this symbolic part of his duties as President just as important as the nitty gritty of statecraft.

Why am I telling you all of this on the day of the Queen's funeral? Because it was on reading it that I was finally persuaded that having the head of state (the public persona who officially embodies a country's unity and legitimacy) as a ceremonial figurehead, is a better idea than combining the role with that of the head of government and more (such as the President of the United States, who is also commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces). Also that a constitutional monarchy is likely the best way to do it with a certain amount of glamour and dignity as personified in Her Majesty.

I can't bear this bloody thing': King Charles gets frustrated with leaky pen
Unfortunately, someone so irascible he can lose his rag about a pen (a pen!) in public and in front of television cameras is temperamentally unsuited for life as a ceremonial figurehead. The job will not be about him, it will be about him as a vehicle through which society's honour and respect is bestowed upon others. If Charles III doesn't understand that after seventy two years, he never will.

We should have gone straight to King William V. I don't think I have ever written it here before, but Prince William did his work experience with Andy Tea years and years ago; a very genial and pleasant fella I am told, a dab hand with the photocopier, and a genuine - as opposed to affected - Aston Villa supporter.