Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Strength to strength

Known Paapa coming up seven years now.

Monday, November 13, 2023

My life

Wasn't well enough to go to this yesterday. Don't think I'll be well enough to go to the theatre tomorrow.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Getting Sentimental over you

I glanced a reference on these spindrift pages yesterday about going to the Jazz Voice Opening Gala on Friday. If you click the title above, it will take you to today's date's blog post for 2022. It is about watching Yolanda Charles at the same festival.

In 2021 I was at the First night of Zadie Smith's  The  Wife of Willesden at the Kiln Theatre. 2020 Ben came round. We shared food from Garfield and a case of Red Stripe, while listening to and jamming on old reggae tunes.

Etcetera, etcetera. Been doing so about half a decade now.

In retrospect, not such a bad old life.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Ah'm jess sayin' is all


Yesterday's poem was by John Burnside. He won The David Cohen Prize for Literature the day before yesterday, only a fortnight after making his debut on the 'blog.

I don't know anything of his but the poetry. Think I'll start the hinterland - other formats and styles - with 'I put a spell on you,' which also has curious resonances with last night's London Jazz Opening Gala.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Change of pace?

When all the books are gone, there will be

nothing to remember but a single

porch light at the far end of the road

where something live is moving in the snow,

a woman, or a fox, it’s hard to say.

Let's have a couple of literature days on the 'blog. I will clear up the poem above tomorrow.

Margery Kempe is honoured in the Church of England with a commemoration on 9 November (yesterday) and in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America together with Richard Rolle and Walter Hilton on 9 November. Nothing from us Catholics though.

An astounding debut, both epic and intimate, about grief, trauma, revelation, and the hidden lives of women - by a major new talent

In the year of 1413, two women meet for the first time in the city of Norwich.

Margery has left her fourteen children and husband behind to make her journey. Her visions of Christ – which have long alienated her from her family and neighbours, and incurred her husband’s abuse – have placed her in danger with the men of the Church, who have begun to hound her as a heretic.

Julian, an anchoress, has not left Norwich, nor the cell to which she has been confined, for twenty-­three years. She has told no one of her own visions – and knows that time is running out for her to do so.

The two women have stories to tell one another. Stories about girlhood, motherhood, sickness, loss, doubt and belief; revelations more the powerful than the world is ready to hear. Their meeting will change everything.

Sensual, vivid and humane, For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on My Little Pain cracks history open to reveal the lives of two extraordinary women.
This month's Audible voucher will go on Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

8:54 to spare Prime Minister?

A crumb of comfort from the, largely confected, row, and a timely reminder this is not a party political issue.

Pro-Palestinian Armistice Day march must go ahead, says Churchill’s grandson

Lord Soames, a former Armed Forces minister, said: “A lot of people died during the war to assert freedom”.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that the march can go ahead, despite fears that it could lead to counter-protests by Right-wing extremists, because the “evidence threshold” to ban it had not been met.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has described the protest plans as “provocative and disrespectful”, claiming they posed a risk that the Cenotaph could be vandalised.

Speaking to LBC, Lord Soames said: “It’s nowhere near the Cenotaph. It’s in the afternoon and most of these people, 90 per cent of those people, are not there to make trouble.

“They’re there to express a deeply held view. And I think it must be allowed to go ahead, and I think it would be a great mistake to play politics with it. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Whatever it is, I'm against it


The Metropolitan Police Service will protect Armistice and Remembrance events in London this weekend.

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "The events taking place this weekend are of great significance and importance to our nation. I completely recognise the significant public and political concern about the impact of ongoing protest and demonstrations on this moment of national reflection. Therefore I am determined we will do everything in our power to ensure they pass without disruption.

“The reason we have an independent police service is so that among debate, opinion, emotion and conflict, we stand in the centre, focused simply on the law and the facts in front of us.

“The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest, therefore there will be a protest this weekend.

“The law provides no mechanism to ban a static gathering of people. It contains legislation which allows us to impose conditions to reduce disruption and the risk of violence, and in the most extreme cases when no other tactics can work, for marches or moving protests to be banned.

“Many have called for us to use this power to ban a planned march by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign on Saturday.

“But the use of this power is incredibly rare and must be based on intelligence which suggests there will be a real threat of serious disorder and no other way for police to manage the event. The last time it was used was over a decade ago.

“Over recent weeks we’ve seen an escalation of violence and criminality by small groups attaching themselves to demonstrations, despite some key organisers working positively with us.

“But at this time, the intelligence surrounding the potential for serious disorder this weekend does not meet the threshold to apply for a ban.

“The organisers have shown complete willingness to stay away from the Cenotaph and Whitehall and have no intention of disrupting the nation’s remembrance events. Should this change, we’ve been clear we will use powers and conditions available to us to protect locations and events of national importance at all costs.

“Officers will continue to take swift and robust action against any breakaway groups or individuals intent on using legitimate, lawful protest for their own agenda through Saturday and Sunday.

“If over the next few days the intelligence evolves, and we reach a threshold where there is a real threat of serious disorder we will approach the Home Secretary. Right now, we remain focused on the facts in front of us and developing our plan to ensure the highest levels of protection for events throughout the weekend."

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner issued a statement last night, saying he cannot ban a pro-Palestinian protest on Armistice Day. 

He did this despite the Prime Minister saying that the planned protest should not go ahead; brave and noble. I am quick enough to to put Sir Mark Rowley down when I think he has gone wrong, so this morning he gets rare praise plus an acknowledgement his can't be an easy job.

Do you remember that my cousin invited me to Kenneth Branagh's Lear on Saturday afternoon, but I couldn't go because I was in Wales? "King Lear is cancelled so popped into Vanny's work canteen, the Crypt at St Martin in the Fields; then joined the march for peace in Palestine ...." she wrote. A wonderful illustration that not only stake-holders and raging woke loons feel strongly about this, which is a fact lost upon the Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Fitzcarraldo Editions

Jacques Testard and Fitzcarraldo staff in their Deptford office 
Fitzcarraldo Editions is an independent publisher specialising in contemporary fiction and long-form essays. Founded in 2014, it focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language. The series, designed by Ray O’Meara, are published as paperback originals with French flaps, using a custom serif typeface (called Fitzcarraldo). Fitzcarraldo Editions publishes, among other authors, the 2015, 2018, 2022 and 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature laureates Svetlana Alexievich, Olga Tokarczuk, Annie Ernaux and Jon Fosse. 

I am back in London. Vince gave me a lift. I went to see Sean yesterday morning. He told me his new novel, the one I helped with a tiny bit, is finished.

"Who are you going to send it to?"

"Jacques Testard, he was quite keen on 'The Englishwoman' but decided in the end it didn't quite fit with his imprint."

'The Englishwoman' was Sean's previous effort. Jacques' 'imprint' is Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Telegraph 6/10/23

If you’re a publisher, and four of your writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, you might be expected to be slightly blasé should a fifth scoop the same award. Jacques Testard, founder of the independent Fitzcarraldo Editions, is the only publisher in Britain who can confirm that this is not the case. When I speak to him on Friday, he’s overwhelmed.

The Norwegian novelist Jon Fosse, eight of whose books Fitzcarraldo has published in translation since 2018, has just won the 2023 Nobel. Fosse follows in the footsteps of four other Nobel Laureates published by Fitzcarraldo: last year’s winner, the French writer Annie Ernaux; Olga Tokarczuk, the writer and activist from Poland, who won in 2018; the Belarusian journalist-essayist Svetlana Alexievich, who won in 2015; and Elfriede Jelinek, the Austrian playwright and novelist who won in 2004 and subsequently joined Fitzcarraldo’s list too.

This is an astonishing hit-rate for any publisher. What makes it all the more remarkable is that Fitzcarraldo is a small independent firm, founded less than a decade ago. It has seven full-time staff, three of whom are editors, and publishes books at a modest rate: 23 this year. 

Not too shabby my old friend Mr Burke. Not too shabby at all.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Short but sweet

 Rayburn is flying in from Florida on 15 November. I do hop he can come to Cork with us, the following weekend.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth

Cousin Ria has offered me Aunt Philo's ticket for Lear Lear this afternoon. I'm very grateful but I can't make as I am in Wales.

Besides Branagh hasn't come to see me lately since I've been bad.

Ba Dum Tish!

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width

Sean at 1pm yesterday the Vince and Michele took me to The Merchant of Venice 1936  at the New Theatre, Cardiff in the evening. Never mind reviews, when you feel as ropey as I do 'two hours including interval' is enough recommendation.

Friday, November 03, 2023

The Not Ready for Prime Time Players

The extent to which I have succeeded is debatable, but I genuinely have worked hard (passim) on trying to understand generative AI and Large Language Models and find myself more on the, say, Gary Marcus than the Geoff Hinton side of the debate, while respecting both.

Have an example from yesterday of why I remain among the rueful naysayers. 

"Where in London is Dance First playing?" I asked ChatGPT, via Bing, yesterday.

Dance First is a biographical film about the life and work of Samuel Beckett, the Nobel Prize-winning Irish playwright. It stars Aidan Gillen, Maxine Peake, Gabriel Byrne, and others. It is directed by James Marsh and has a running time of 100 minutes

According to my web search results, Dance First is playing at the following cinemas in London from Friday 3rd November to Thursday 9th November:


•  Cineworld Cinemas: Wandsworth https://firstdancelondon.co.uk/

You can find the exact showtimes and book tickets online by clicking on the links above. I hope you enjoy the film.

Try the link. That's right. It takes you to WEDDING DANCE LESSONS IN CENTRAL LONDON. Completely useless.

Have a conspiracy theory on me. 

Rishi Sunak's AI SAFETY SUMMIT, HOSTED BY THE UK, 1ST AND 2ND NOVEMBER AT BLETCHLEY PARK. Why and why now? Especially given that Larry, the British domestic tabby cat who has served as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at 10 Downing Street since probably knows more about AI than Rishi does.

The summit finished yesterday. What else finished yesterday? The latest round of public evidence to the UK Covid-19 Enquiry. We wake up to
Rishi Sunak: Inviting China to AI Summit was right long-term decision
when we could have woken up to
For the last three days the Covid inquiry had been like an out-of-control therapy session. The permanently trashed Party Marty. The foul-mouthed career sociopath Dominic Cummings. The caring, sharing Helen MacNamara. All competing with one another to expose the corruption and incompetence at the heart of Boris Johnson’s government during the Covid crisis. All desperate to pin the blame on someone other than themselves. All third-rate desperadoes in their tragicomic worlds.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Dannie Abse: Return to Cardiff

I hope to be off for a long family weekend visit later today.

‘Hometown’; well, most admit an affection for a city:

grey, tangled streets I cycled on to school, my first


in the back lane, and, fool, my first botched love affair.

First everything. Faded torments; self-indulgent pity.


The journey to Cardiff seemed less a return than a raid

on mislaid identities. Of course the whole locus smaller:

the mile-wide Taff now a stream, the castle not as in

     some black,

gothic dream, but a decent sprawl, a joker’s toy façade.


Unfocused voices in the wind, associations, clues,

odds and ends, fringes caught, as when, after the doctor


a door opened and I glimpsed the white, enormous face

of my grandfather, suddenly aghast with certain news.


Unable to define anything I can hardly speak,

and still I love the place for what I wanted it to be

as much as for what unashamedly is

now for me, a city of strangers, alien and bleak.


Unable to communicate I’m easily betrayed,

uneasily diverted by mere sense reflections

like those anchored waterscapes that wander, alter, in

      the Taff,

hour by hour, as light slants down a different shade.


Illusory, too, that lost dark playground after rain,

the noise of trams, gunshots in what they once called

     Tiger Bay.

Only real this smell of ripe, damp earth when the sun

       comes out,

a mixture of pungencies, half exquisite and half plain.


No sooner than I’d arrived the other Cardiff had gone,

smoke in the memory, these but tinned resemblances,

where the boy I was not and the man I am not

met, hesitated, left double footsteps, then walked on.