Monday, February 06, 2023

Greetings from Chichen Itza!

Rod M has sent me a postcard from Mexico. It dropped through the letter box on Saturday and features Chichen Itza of which I have not previously heard.


Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic period. The archeological site is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico.

Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from the Late Classic (c. AD 600–900) through the Terminal Classic (c. AD 800–900) and into the early portion of the Postclassic period (c. AD 900–1200). The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the Northern Maya lowlands. The presence of central Mexican styles was once thought to have been representative of direct migration or even conquest from central Mexico, but most contemporary interpretations view the presence of these non-Maya styles more as the result of cultural diffusion.

So now you know. It's Rod's world, we just live in it. I think he may be losing his touch though. He managed to visit Mexico for the whole of January without a civil war breaking out.

Update - Correction.

Grauniard Fri 6 Jan 2023

Twenty-four hours of terror as cartel violence engulfs Mexican city

At least 29 people killed in Culiacán as drug cartel gunmen fight bloody battle to stop transport of El Chapo’s son after arrest.

I was a fool ever to doubt him.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

A strange attractor

I went to Paul and Rachel's Wedding Celebration last night. I know Paul, and many of the other guests from when I lived in Whitton which - if Ben is 22, is more than 22 years ago. It was great to catch up

Paul's Eloise (who I remember as little poppet) is now a married man called Lewis. Everyone has changed but this was the biggest transformation.

Maureen was there. These pages tell me that her husband Harry's funeral (Icons passim) was five years ago.

2008 Zell am See
Woodsy was there. He kept telling me stories of when he lived with me. I had no recollection of this whatsoever, perhaps I just put him up for a couple of weeks in the spare room some time.

I remembered that Paul had come to my brother John's stag do. That must have been a quarter of a century ago.

I remembered that Dicky had come to the airport with John, Ruth and I when they flew off on their honeymoon.

Claudia, who took such a shine to Ben when I first took him skiing in 2008 (Icons passim) asked asked after him and was astonished to be informed he is now six feet three tall.

Loads more old friends and loads more stories. I must get in the habit of getting back over there regularly again. I used to. Covid seems to have cut a lot of old comfy, "breathing out and breathing in" habits off at the knees.

As an example, when the band finished for the night the singer whimsically announced "we were actually first booked for this gig in 2019!" God knows how many times the wedding was booked and cancelled.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Not half tidy

 This came up when I was talking to my brother, John, yesterday.


Cardiff English



Very good

Half tidy

Very very good

Not half tidy

Cardiff English makes no sense at all. How anyone who didn't take it in with their mother's milk ever learns it is a mystery to me but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, February 03, 2023

"hir hipes large"

I went to a lecture in Southwark Cathedral's library last night. Marion Turner on her new book, "The Wife of Bath: A Biography." Marion Turner is the J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. I am now old enough to see the J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language is an attractive young woman. There is only upside to this, Years do your worst.

It was good enough for me to buy a copy of the book and have a chat with the author afterwards as she signed it. I told her I didn't previously know that the Wife of Bath's pilgrimages included Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela just like Margery Kempe, and that when I first read of Kempe I thought her great journeys through Europe and the Middle East made her unique. Marion and I could have spoken of women's agency and a specifically female nurturing ethical tradition for hours but the queue was getting restless.

What was less good, were the questions that came from the audience after the formal talk. They were, almost without exception, quite staggeringly pompous and ill informed; about Chaucer's "misogyny" and devoid of even a hint of self awareness.

Here is an example of the type of tomfoolery we had to endure; a woman in the audience asked if the reference in the Prologue to "hir hipes large" was "body shaming" the wife of B? I could hear Professor Turner grinding her molars together in frustration at this idiocy, but all she did was mouth some platitudinous bromide in reply rather than get in a cat fight with this harridan. Here is where the image gets good though. The young lady who was running the event was the person walking round the room handing the microphone to the 'hands-in-the-airs' who wanted to ask questions. After delivering the mike to the next idiot, she would kneel down when the question was being asked so as not to obstruct anybody's view. I mean really kneel down, buttock to the back of the ankle. In a black shift dress, black tights and black flats she looked like a medieval supplicant. I wondered how an image of her prostrating herself before, say, a row of men, as she was now prostrating herself before the woman who was asking the dumb-ass question would go down with the woman herself. Patriarchy anyone?

I did take one mark from our lecturer for a reference to Julian of Norwich as a nun - which she wasn't - rather than an anchoress. On reflection, I am tempted to reinstate it. Imagine LGBTQ+ trans-confusion crisis involved in having to explain to the half wits in the audience that Julian of Norwich was a woman. Was this progressive or regressive in the 15th century? I give up.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

I don't want realism. I want magic!

Luckily there is someone on the team with more moral fortitude than I have. Someone who can be told they are 4,044th in the queue and just buckle down rather than having an NJB screaming hissy fit followed by a nervous breakdown.

And so it has come to pass that we have skin-of-the-teeth tickets to the Almeida's smash hit "A Streetcar Named Desire" transfer to the Phoenix in the West End with the Oscar nominated Paul Mescal, of whom I had never previously heard, all present and correct.

I've seen the 1951 film obviously, who hasn't? Let's see what other productions the WBI time machine can furnish forth.

First out of the blocks; April Fool's day 2015 (Icons passim). The Scottish Ballet at Sadlers Wells. Who'd a thunk it?

September 2014, Vanessa Kirby, Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster at the Young Vic, though we caught it in the cinema courtesy of NT Live. Very good it was too.

1997 though is where we hit pay dirt. Me, John and Ruth (parents of my nieces Mia and Jasmine). The Peter Hall Company production at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Jessica Lange as Blanche Dubois, Imogen Stubbs as Stella and Toby Stephens as Stanley. (As ever, apologies to whoever was Mitch. I have forgotten you.)

Mia is in her final year at Central now, and actually played Blanche the term before last.
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by?

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Mattan: Injustice of a Hanged Man

Helen is reading the Booker nominated "The Fortune Men" at the moment. In fact Five-Twentyfive Design, whose office is opposite mine did the cover. Perhaps because she remembers I have got it on Audible (Icons passim; though between ourselves haven't got round to listening to it yet) she sent me a link to a BBC podcast Mattan: Injustice of a Hanged Man which is about the real-life Cardiff murder scandal upon which it is based.

I must listen to both before we go and see "Trouble in Butetown" at the Donmar.

Googling the title of the podcast I also came across this BBC article:
Safia Mohamed was amazed to discover that one of the last men hanged in Wales was a Somali like her. Most British Somalis arrived after 1990 and Safia never imagined they had been around for more than 100 years. The story of Mahmood Mattan, as she dug in to it, also told a bigger story about Somali sailors in the UK and the racial prejudice they faced.
It is a good and well illustrated and, while based around the Mattan case, also provides a general history of the Somalis in Cardiff.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Ollie gave me a shout mid morning. "I’ve got someone coming to look at the mini in 10 it would be nice to have some support." I pottered round to add my imposing physical presence to her close protection team. Actually, all joking aside, the purchaser was a very pleasant Asian fella from Wolverhampton who closed the deal, loaded the discombobulated vehicle on his flat back trailer and skedaddled. Before he did so, as I drank coffee in the kitchen, as the paperwork was completed and the funds were transferred, he said that this was the first time in his experience that a neighbour had come round with no other purpose than to lend moral support to a woman conducting a significant transaction with a stranger on her own. He, by the way, was in favour of it.

I think this is a terrible indictment of how we live. By some miracle we are blessed with a community in the 'Wood. I don't know how it happened, but happen it did and I am grateful for it.

It is not just local. Its tentacles extend throughout our island fortress. Ollie's son Jonnie, a close friend of my son since their first day in primary school, is playing football for his university against Cardiff Met on Wednesday and his mum is going to watch. When I was in Cardiff on the weekend, I cooked extravagantly on Saturday night, but when I loaded the dish washer on Sunday morning there were no tablets in the house so I couldn't fire it up. I was on a tight schedule with no time to pop to a supermarket that wouldn't even be open that early in the morning so I had to leave it. Ollie and family have stayed at mum and dad's in the past when attending a rugby game. If my brother hadn't already agreed to do it, I could have given her my keys and asked her to sort it out as she knows her way around 44.

And this gives me a warm feeling.

Monday, January 30, 2023


I drove to Cardiff on Saturday morning to see Mum. Normally I go on Fridays, but my Irish DNA ensured I was in no condition to get behind the wheel of a car after the wake at Hotel du Vin Cannizaro House that followed the funeral.

As ever I popped up Ty-Gwyn Avenue when I was home to see Sean. Who could have guessed that the smartest person I would ever meet (present company - my readers - excepted of course) would turn out to be the snotty brat to my right of my snotty brat when they lined us up in alphabetical order on our first day in primary school? I wish I had known at the time. It would have saved me a lot of time with false prophets and celebrity gurus.

He has set me Either/Or, the first published work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, as homework for my next visit. No pressure then.

Wikipedia - Historical context

After writing and defending his dissertation On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates (1841), Kierkegaard left Copenhagen in October 1841 to spend the winter in Berlin. The main purpose of this visit was to attend the lectures by the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, who was an eminent figure at the time. The lectures turned out to be a disappointment for many in Schelling's audience, including Mikhail Bakunin and Friedrich Engels, and Kierkegaard described it as "unbearable nonsense".[5] During his stay, Kierkegaard worked on the manuscript for Either/Or, took daily lessons to perfect his German and attended operas and plays, particularly by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He returned to Copenhagen in March 1842 with a draft of the manuscript, which was completed near the end of 1842 and published in February 1843.

According to a journal entry from 1846, Either/Or was written "lock, stock, and barrel in eleven months" ("Rub og Stub, i 11 Maaneder"), although a page from the "Diapsalmata" section in the 'A' volume was written before that time.

The title Either/Or is an affirmation of Aristotelian logic, particularly as modified by Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Immanuel Kant. Is the question, "Who am I?" a scientific question or one for the single individual to answer for themself?

Kierkegaard argues that Hegel's philosophy dehumanized life by denying personal freedom and choice through the neutralization of the 'either/or'. The dialectic structure of becoming renders existence far too easy, in Hegel's theory, because conflicts are eventually mediated and disappear automatically through a natural process that requires no individual choice other than a submission to the will of the Idea or Geist. Kierkegaard saw this as a denial of true selfhood and instead advocated the importance of personal responsibility and choice-making.

Myself: Those Jena boys eh? Schelling, Goethe and Fichte (Icons passim), they get everywhere.

Prodnose: Vengaboys?

Myself (shrugging shoulders): Yes. Paaarty!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A 'Norway'

Chewing the fat with my new Norwegian chums after the funeral, I mentioned Cardiff's coastal Norwegian church as a possibly shared point of reference. To my astonishment, they were all quite familiar with the Wales-Norway connection.

During the late 19th century, you see, tens of thousands of Norwegian sailors visited Cardiff aboard merchant ships bringing strong, straight timber from Scandinavia to be used as pit props in coal mines. Then, the empty ships would export Welsh coal across the world.

Jone even told me that he had heard that pit props were called "Norways" in the vernacular of the Welsh miners. Isn't that wonderful? 

During World War II, in which Norway was occupied by Nazi forces from 1940, many more Norwegians also passed through Cardiff as refugees and seamen. The seamen serving with particular distinction in the Atlantic convoys that saved our bacon. Many of them were killed when staying at the Norwegian Seamen's mission in Bute Street when Cardiff was bombed by the Germans.

My new Scandinavian chums had much of this at their fingertips. I was genuinely impressed.

Here's a Wales Online article I found.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Volume 2


In all modesty, I thought we might be the best band in the world when we played at the funeral yesterday. We started "Will the Circle be Unbroken" sounding like the Vienna Boys Choir and finished sounding like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

The other song we did was Amazing Grace. I was pleased and proud to discover today that there is an NGDB version of that as well.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Amazing Grace

We rehearsed in the Colour House Theatre last night for Renu's mother's funeral today. It is in the West Chapel at Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium at half past ten this morning.

I brought my keyboard along and played on the organ setting. (I had forgotten how big it was. I practically gave myself a hernia getting it out of the house). I am playing the chapel's organ today, after I went to Putney to check it out on Tuesday afternoon.

The rest of line up is two guitars, acoustic bass, banjo, mandolin and violin. All Norwegian except for one guitar and the violin, courtesy of Jone, Renu's Norwegian fiance. All head arrangements rather than reading but I thought it went well. Renu burst into tears when she came in as we were doing "Will the Circle be Unbroken" which I took as a good sign.

All we have to do now is the performance.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Hive Mind

 The Hive Home app and web interface I use to control my heating was on the blink almost all of yesterday. Oddly almost the only national I could find any reference to this on was The Sun.

Some users are speculating that it's linked to Microsoft Azure – a major internet cloud provider.

Microsoft also suffered a large outage on Wednesday morning.

That last sentence above linked in turn linked to another article, in The Sun and published on the same day, which discusses simultaneous problems across all Microsoft's online platforms.

Confused users began flooding social media platforms trying to find out what was going on at around 7.30am GMT.

"I can't access my work email, it's just loading," one said at the time.

"I wonder if Microsoft laid off the wrong people," another joked, referencing the company's recent announcement that 10,000 people will lose their jobs.

That last sentence above linked in turn linked to another article, in The Sun and published a week ago detailing the massive layoffs.

Do I really need my Telegraph subscription?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023



The Donmar Theatre have posted another video about Trouble in Butetown. I am taking the drama school neices on February 21st. An actor called Samuel Adawunmi says that he plays a black American GI in it and it is set in 1943. Dad's family lived in Adamsdown, just north of Butetown but practically on the border opposite the Vulcan pub. He tells a story of looking out of the bedroom windows at America servicemen spilling out of it fighting. That makes perfect sense for a ten year old boy.

There's a legend of Rocky Marciano having a fight in a pub in Grangetown around the same time. Read this and make your own judgement. I choose to believe it.

Next up, YouTube's logarithms threw me the short film above; a lot closer to my time. The Noor El Islam Mosque is at the northern end of Angelina Street, St Mary's is just beyond it and leads in turn to the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. St Mary's is Anglican. St Joseph's, the Catholic Church is only a mile away to the West on the other side of the river Taff. Multicultural enough for you?

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Telegram Sam

 I installed Telegram yesterday. The reason was pragmatic. I need to coordinate with Vera about a theatre trip while Lee is out in the North Sea on a rig. She sent me an SMS message from a French (+33) number but I couldn't reply to it for some reason. She isn't on WhatsApp so he advised me to try Telegram instead. It is all up and running now. 

I was vaguely aware of Telegram before, having heard references to it in relation to the Russia Ukraine conflict, and by coincidence there was press coverage yesterday saying:

The private messaging app Telegram has for the first time overtaken WhatsApp in traffic volume in Russia, the Vedomosti business daily reported Monday, with experts predicting the Russian-founded messenger will also surpass the user count of its Meta-owned competitor this year.

Telegram accounted for 60-80% of total traffic exchanged in Russia by the start of 2023 and has continued to grow since then, according to an analysis by Russia’s top four telecom operators cited by Vedomosti.

Here is the Wikipedia page which seems thorough for all that it is mostly technical.

Here is something I picked up from ITV News on YouTube.