Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Hero Who Could Fly

Back in August last year I blogged briefly on 'Banks' greatest save', an article in The Times that had moved me.

Earlier today I got an email from Don Mullan, the author saying:

Thanks for putting my Times feature piece of last August 3 up on your web site. You will recall it was about Gordon Banks and the very positive influence he had on me as a child growing up in Ireland.

I thought that you and your readers might be interested to know that my book: 'GORDON BANKS: A Hero Who Could Fly' will be launched this coming Friday in Dublin and Gordon Banks will be attending. It's 128 pages, plus 8 pages of photographs. The cost is £6.99 soft back and £12.49 hard back. Details are available at:

It is my pleasure to pass the message on. Especially since - although I am ashamed to say I think I have lost it - I am sure that I got an email or a comment from the wife of Tom Hathaway - the guy who gave Raybs his book on the bus - saying how much Don Mullan's piece had moved her in turn.

The rich and intricate connections we can make in this new medium never fail to astonish me.

Amongst the Persians

I've finished reading "Lust for Knowing". How agreeable it is to have someone more erudite and knowledgeable than I could ever be confirm that Said's Orientalism is the epistemological cul de sac that I have always thought it was, and further how wonderful to have been introduced to Edward Granville Browne.

It is fairly clear that his 'A Year Amongst the Persians' is widely acknowledged as a picaresque classic of travel literature. I will be delighted to read it - especially in these troubled times - as a tribute to the genius of the good people of Iran.

I'd like to read it with a glass of Shiraz in my hand as some believe that the name of the grape was taken from that of the city of Shiraz in Iran, where the process of wine making is thought to have originated 7000 years ago. Historic accounts state that the Shiraz was brought into southern France by a returning crusader, Guy De'Sterimberg who became a hermit and developed a vineyard on a steep hill - that became known as the Hermitage - where he lived in the Rhone River Valley. Apparently spoilsports disproved this story with a DNA study in 1998, although it is still generally agreed that we owe the Persians roses and spinach.

Persian infulence is ubiquitous. Eric Clapton's Layla was insired by an Iranian love story "Layla and Mashoun" that struck a chord with the eternal triangle of EC, Patti Boyd and George Harrison. All together now:

du nu nu nu nu nu nu
nu nu nu nu nuuu

du nu nu nu nu nu nu
nu nu nu nu nuuu

du nu nu nu nu nu nu
nu nu nu nu nuuu

What'll you do when you get lonely .........

Monday, February 27, 2006

How Pleasant to Know Mr. Browne

Good evening folks! I've been without broadband at 'home' for a long time due to evolving domestic arrangements. That situation is now remedied and to celebrate I have created a Pandora station called "Lachrymost Radio" which plays country music to accompany our bittersweet meditations over a private drink. Listen and raise a glass to us and ours.

I've bought the necessary pancake fixings to celebrate Shrove Tuesday with my five year old tomorrow. Combining that with the launch of "lachrymost radio", how could I fail to remember, "he weeps by the side of the ocean, he weeps on the top of the hill; he purchases pancakes and lotion, and chocolate shrimps from the mill"?
'How pleasant to know Mr.Lear!'
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.

He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
Leastways if you reckon two thumbs;
Long ago he was one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs.

He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundreds of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of Marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.

He has many friends, lay men and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

When he walks in waterproof white,
The children run after him so!
Calling out, 'He's gone out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!'

He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

He reads, but he cannot speak, Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger beer:
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

Hail Wimpey



'Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking horse'

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sit Down For Denmark

As I was pondering Christopher Hitchens' Washington act of solidarity with Denmark - which I understand passed off successfully - over appropriately sourced bacon sandwiches and lager yesterday afternoon I began to wonder if there were any Danish restaurants that we could include in our "eat your way around the world in London" campaign.

It turns out that there is only one, Lundum's in SW17. I quite fancy its Sunday brunch. I can't do it today but I will certainly pencil it in (ho ho, how satirical a cartoon reference) for next week.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Muay Thai

When I was training with Gordon a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to him that I had noticed through the window that some sort of a gym had been set up on the ground floor of that notorious blot on the landscape, the Brown and Root Tower.

He told me that it was a Thai Boxing school, that he had known the proprietor - Master Boon - and his son Johnny for years.

Having Jackapong set up on the door step is a little ironic for Raybs, as last year before he broke his knee he was looking for a Muay Thai class after being blown away - as we all were - by Tony Jaa in the move Ong Bak.

Gordon gave me some leaflets and the web address on Wednesday and suggested that it might encourage Raybs to work hard at his physiotherapy if this carrot is dangled in front of him.

According to this article from The Times many Thai children start learning the martial art from the age of four, so I will take my five year old along to watch the kids' class at one o'clock today to see if it is suitable and he fancies it. (I also noticed that The Times says "for excellent one-to-one tuition in London, call Kru Johnny Boon" which does seem to imply top notch training.)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Only Joking

A Welshman walks into a bar in New York and says, "Guys, do you want to listen to the latest Irish joke?"

The bartender says, "Before you tell the joke, maybe I should tell you that I'm an Irish American, my friend over there is Irish American, that couple over there are Irish American, that cop sitting there is Irish American, and that fella over there is my cousin from Dublin. Do you still want to tell the joke?"

"No, rather than explain it ten times, I think I'll just forget about it!" replies the man.

A slightly rewritten joke that I found here. It seems that - as Brits joke about the Irish, Yanks about Polacks, and the Irish tell stories about Kerrymen being dim - Indians tell Brahmin jokes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Hugh, ironically a fish hater, spotted a Swedish restaurant called Glas near Borough Market recently that was our destination last night for "eat your way around the world in London".

We kicked off with some coriander and carroway flavoured aquavit, and then shared six dishes from what they call a "grazing menu". We had a couple of cold dishes - herring three ways, prawns with dill and mayonaise, plus cured beef- then three hot ones - cod quenelles, beef Rydburg, and garlic noodles (which were green).

This was great food and I've never tasted anything quite like it before although it is worth noting that you add raw egg to the cooked beef at the table just as we did in Japan's Makiyaki last year.

All in all experiences we would never had had if we hadn't been following our noses to these real and imaginary destinations.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Boy

On Tuesdays I pick my five year old up from school and bring him back to Abbey Mills for a session at the ArtTess 4 Kids Arts and Crafts School and Gallery. It is downstairs under my office in the Apprentice Shop so it couldn't be more convenient. Here he is on the right with two projects; a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle canvas, and a papier mache dinosaur mask. As you can see from the photo above, the mask is wearable. When he put it on he started to sing "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me", so he is growing up to be as eccentric as I am I fear.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Armed Man

Station hopping as I was driving to Guildford yesterday, I was struck by a new piece of unfamiliar music for the first time since stumbling across a track from "The Melody At Night With You".

The presenter on Classic FM didn't identify the music once it had finished, but he did say that it had appeared at number 9 in the stations's 2005 Hall of Fame, which allowed me to identify it as 'Jenkins Karl: The Armed Man (A Mass for Peace)'. It should now be winging its way to me from Amazon.

With a little more research I was delighted to discover that that only living composer in Classic FM's Top Ten Hall of Fame is a Welshman living on the Gower coast, and that the Mass itself sounds right up my street:
The Armed Man - A Mass For Peace" is the result of a special millennial commission from the Royal Armouries and the latest in a six century old tradition of "Armed Man" masses that take the fifteenth century French song "L'Homme Armé" as their starting point.

According to Guy Wilson, Master of the Royal Armouries "The theme that 'the armed man must be feared' which is the message of the song seemed to me painfully relevant to the 20th century and so the idea was born to commission a modern 'Armed Man Mass'. What better way both to look back and reflect as we leave behind the most war-torn and destructive century in human history, and to look ahead with hope and commit ourselves to a new and more peaceful millennium."

Large scale in both scope and scale "The Armed Man" it is a profoundly moving yet very accessible work which uses the most traditional of means to explore an all too contemporary subject. As Karl explains, "As I started composing "The Armed Man" the tragedy of Kosovo unfolded. I was reminded daily of the horror of such conflict and so I dedicate the work to the victims of Kosovo" .

In a manner reminiscent of Britten's War Requiem, "The Armed Man" interpolates a number of different texts within the usual Mass form. Malory, Dryden, Swift, Tennyson, Kipling, The Koran and the Hindu Mahàbharàta contribute to a compelling account of the descent into and terrible consequences of war.

Karl was very moved and much inspired by Guy Wilson's selection of texts and in his music for "The Armed Man" has drawn on a similarly diverse array of cultural and historical sources. It's difficult to think of another composer who could successfully place a muezzin's call to prayer within a Mass setting and follow it with a Kyrie that quotes both Palestrina and Brazilian drum rhythms. That Karl does so with such ease and to such powerful effect is a tribute to his remarkable skill and musical sensitivity.
Now if I can only up the Welsh quotient by arranging to listen to it while resting my head on Katherine Jenkins' lap while she strokes my cheek, life will be complete.

Monday, February 20, 2006


As I've been reading the early chapters of "Lust for Knowing", about the reintroduction of Aristotle to the West with the translation from Arabic of commentries written by figures such as Averroes and Avicenna, I've been struck yet again by how deeply tangled world culture is, and how flawed the idea of an eternal "clash of civilisations" is.

Because, of course, if the Greeks hadn't defeated the Persians at Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea, there wouldn't have been an Aristotle to cast such a long shadow over both Islam and Christianity.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I seem accidently to have deleted Saturday's post called "a work of malignant charlatrany". If anyone has it in a aggregator could you post it back to me as a comment here so I don't have to try and rewrite it?

Update 11:40am I found my missing post and reinstated it. While I was on the treadmill I got the idea of looking in a search engine cache for it. Google and MSN let me down, but Yahoo came up with the goods.


Earlier in February my brother came along with me to Virgin Active when he was in London for the weekend and chilled out in the spa while I did my turn in the gym. He obviously got the bug though as he signed up along with his kids at a rival health club back in Wales, where Virgin doesn't have a presence.

As I arrived here this morning to do my duty with regard to aerobic and resistance exercises I remembered him encouraging me to use the building for more than just working out, so I'm typing this as I browse my blogroll over a latte at one of the club's internet terminals, and after I hit the gym I'm going take a sauna and then linger over the Sunday papers in an armchair. (Prince is in the Observer.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A work of malignant charlatanry

I cannot abide Edward Said's 'Orientalism', and I didn't realise until a while after I had read this Terry Eagleton New Statesman Review of Robert Irwin's new riposte to Said's "classic", that Irwin was also the author of my beloved 'The Arabian Nights: A Companion'.

I needed no other encouragement to pick up a up a copy of 'For Lust of Knowing: the orientalists and their enemies', yesterday and read a couple of chapters in the evening.The hatchet job on Said doesn't appear until the last chapter but I am looking forward to it. Until then it is very convivial to be back in Irwin's witty, urbane, learned, and generous company and I have been delighted to discover a namesake - Edward Granville Browne - among his cast of characters.

Friday, February 17, 2006


What deep joy to see Prince performing (along, be still my beating heart, with Wendy, Lisa and Sheila E) on the TV coverage of the Brits last night. He is truly better than everyone else put together - whatever I mean by that. Half the non entities in the audience should be forbidden from the stage in shame a la Montfleury.
I will clap my hands thrice, thus--full moon! At the third clap, eclipse yourself!

Everyone acknowledges the Minneapolis, mini funkmeister's musical gifts but he's also, and when he puts his mind to it, a fine lyricist (tho U must try 2 4give his spelling) as "Money don't matter 2 night" from Diamonds and Pearls demonstrates:

One more card and it's 22
Unlucky 4 him he didn't make it
He never had respect 4 money it's true
That's why he never wins
That's why he never ever has enough 2 treat his lady right
He just pushes her away in a huff
And says “Money don't matter 2night"

Money don't matter 2night
It sure didn't matter yesterday
Just when U think U've got more than enough
That's when it all up and flies away
That's when U find out that U're better off
Makin' sure your soul's alright
Cuz money didn't matter yesterday
And it sure don't matter 2night

Look, here's a cool investment
They're tellin' him he just can't lose
So he goes out and tries 2 find a partner
But all he finds are users
All he finds are snakes in every color
Every nationality and size
Seems like the only thing that he can do is just roll his eyes

And say that money don't matter 2night
It sure didn't matter yesterday
Just when U think U've got more than enough
That's when it all up and flies away
That's when U find out that U're better off
Makin' sure your soul's alright
Cuz money didn't matter yesterday
And it sure don't matter 2night

Hey now, maybe we can find a good reason 2 send a child off 2 war
So what if we're controllin' all the oil
Is it worth a child dying 4?
If long life is what we all live 4 then long life will come 2 pass
Anything is better than the picture of the child in a cloud of gas
And U think U got it bad

Money don't matter 2night
It sure didn't matter yesterday
Just when U think U've got more than enough
That's when it all up and flies away
That's when U find out that U're better off
Makin' sure your soul's alright
Cuz money didn't matter yesterday
And it sure don't matter 2night

Is each chorus an ironic counterpoint to the verse or vice versa? Discuss.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

My mistress' eyes

I was flicking through Shakespeare's Sonnets last night - goodness me aren't the early ones gay - and couldn't help but be reminded by the switch at the end of number 130 of Jerry Herman's 'I Won't Send Roses' and Bob Dylan's 'Most of the Time'.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Sometimes I wish I had done some academic study of poetry in English rather than just read it privately, but maybe that would have beaten the joy out of it. Who can tell?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Cup

I didn't drink any booze at all yesterday. I didn't set out to, it just sort of happened. I guess it goes to show what even a momentary lapse of concentration can do at this level.
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears:
To-morrow! Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n thousand Years.
... as the great Khayyam (poet, imbiber, mathematician, and astonomer of Iran) observerved.

Maybe if and when I get down to my target weight, I should implement a regime of giving up drinking if and when I ever go above it until the objective is restored. That should concentrate my mind. For, in Keat's formulation:

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Arson, Violence on Day of Mob Rule in Lahore

LAHORE, Feb 14: Two young men were killed and 20 suffered injuries when angry mobs, protesting against publication of sacrilegious caricatures of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) in a number of European newspapers turned violent.

The protesters ransacked and set on fire a number of buildings, including the Punjab Assembly, and hundreds of cars and motorcycles in the city on Tuesday.

The shooting, which claimed the two lives, occurred on Egerton Road where a bank security guard opened fire on approaching rioters. Three youngsters suffered bullet injuries and they were rushed to the Mayo Hospital.

One of the injured youngsters died on way to the hospital and another died after first aid dressing, said Dr Tariq at the emergency ward of the hospital. The deceased were identified as Muhammad Qaisar, 22, and Muhammad Rafiq, 25. He added that 13 injured people had been taken to the hospital. Of them, five suffered bullet injuries, he said, adding that three of them were in a critical condition.

Eyewitnesses and police said the establishments ransacked and set on fire by groups of rioters included a number of local and foreign banks, four restaurants of two American fast food chains, a Norwegian cellphone company's office, a five-star hotel, a cinema, a theatre, a number of petrol pumps and various shops.

A local report from Lahore yesterday. When and where will this madness end? And yes, absurd as it seems our choice of dining establishment on Tuesday night, does make what happened in Lahore as opposed to elsewhere in the Ummah more immediate and disturbing somehow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lahore Karahi

As seemed inevitable, Paul and I visited the Lahore Karahi last night for its official ""eat your way around the world in London" inauguration and sure enough Paya is on the menu in the "Chef's Choice of Specialty Dish of the Day" section. It wasn't available last night however and the waiter said it was more of a weekend thing so I had a Sindhi Biryani and Paul had a Muglai Biryani. We drank mango juice.

I also noticed that they advertise "every Sunday morning Lahori Nashta (Breakfast) Halwa Puri and Chana Bhaji". I need to visit and check that out as well.

(Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations.)

Monday, February 13, 2006


I had Radio 4 on in the car on Saturday, and "Any Questions?" was playing as we were driving somewhere. As the Daily Mail's Ann Leslie launched into some interminable diatribe, my five year old offered the following commentary, "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah".

My breast expanded with pride.


I got an SMS messgae from my brother yesterday, telling me that Paya, not Nihari is the name of Bippin's special dish. It certainly doesn't mean that last weekend's visit to the Lahore Karahi was wasted though, as I've picked up the Nihari spice mix and I will certainly be brewing one up in the slow cooker overnight some weekend soon.

It turns out that Paya means trotters. I have found a great article on the dish here, which says "Mughlai cuisine has quite a few preparations of Paya but the ones most popular are the Nihari, the Shorba and the Salan", so we may not have been that far off the mark.

One of the reviews that the Lahore Karahi has posted in its window as an advertisement says - I kid you not - that one of their specialities is "something disgusting made with sheep's feet". I bet that's Paya, and I feel another visit coming on.

(It is worth noting that another advantage of regular visits to the Lahore Karahi is that it does give you a rather more positive image of Moslem youth than the hate crazed smack dealer in cartridge belts that the red tops have been feeding us.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Movie Movie

According to Empire:
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’ ‘70s exploitation-style passion project Grind is cranking into production.

Each of the directors will helm a 60-minute horror tale that will be combined into one gore-fest. Rodriguez is planning Planet Terror, a zombie movie, while Tarantino is making a slasher called Death Proof. Rodriguez is gearing up to start work on his entry in Texas, though no casting has been announced.

As an intermission between the two flicks, the pair plans to run fake trailers and ads. Tarantino is already considering a fake tease for sexploitation movie titled Cowgirls In Sweden. Other possibilities include a blaxploitation film and a kung-fu movie.

This sounds remarkably similar - in conception- to the 1978 spoof "Movie Movie"which consisted of a black and white, boxing melodrama 'Dynamite Hands' ("We cannot bring Gloves Malloy's death back to life") and the Busby Berkeley-esque 'Baxter's Beauties of 1933' ("one minute you're standing in the wings, and the next minute you're wearin' 'em") separated by a war movie trailer.

Rather wonderfully, Movie Movie was directed by Stanley Donen the director of "Singin' in the Rain".

I caught it on TV years ago. It doesn't seem to be availale on DVD which is a shame.
With the woman that you love at your side to stand behind you, a man can move mountains with his bare heart.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

An Anniversary

Exactly a year ago today, I dashed off a brief blog entry about lunching at El Vergel, a Chilean cafe restaurant, then yesterday a Maria Jose added a comment saying:
I have been looking for a chilean place here in london. I am from chile, and yes, a large percentage of people in chile are of german- background. (my grandparents are german) and thus influencing the food. Im glad you enjoyed it.
My husband and I hope to try it out next week!chao!

Blogging is no flash in the pan you know. I get a real kick from the idea that a Chilean exile found the place from my scribblings and graciously took the time to let me know and confirm some of my speculations about the food.

Further, reading the post again brings the whole day back to me (from the unexpected call from Jane - whose jury service had finished early - suggesting it, the long lunch, and the cheeky pint in the pre Tup Victory on the way home). All grounded in time in a way that it simply wouldn't have been before I was keeping this journal.

Some might wonder whether it is a good thing to be experiencing and remembering more richly over a year when much of my life fell apart, but without necessarily going so far as agreeing that "the unexamined life is not worth living", the blog is a definite plus for me.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Non Entity Fit Club

I was absolutely delighted when I finished at the gym yesterday to find that my weight had dropped below the psychological barrier of 85 Kg.

This is totally amazing to me when I consider that last week comprised:

  • a curry fueled 'lager and rugby frenzy' weekend with my brother that started at 3:30 last Friday afternoon
  • Chinese takeaway Sunday night
  • pub crawl with Paul Monday night
  • Pizza Hut Super Supreme and bottle of red wine Tuesday night
  • Burger King XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger meal with a chocolate milkshake Wednesday night.
THus, the empirical evidence of my experience since I started weighing myself last September seems to be that exercise is at least as important as diet.

I've got a pair of trousers on today that I had to put aside a few years ago when my belly overwhelmed them. They are held up with a belt as I write since my former bulk burst the button off the top of the fly. This gives me a feeling of enormous satisfaction.

Reflecting on, and playing with the spreadsheet that I have used to record my losses leads to a couple of observations.

Since the end of September my average rate of loss has been 0.7 pounds a week. If I had been weighing myself on a dodgy analogue bathroom scale week to week, or of I hadn't been recording the figures, I don't think that would have registered with me as a regular loss at all even though I have lost 19 pounds altogether in the months since then. That is important for motivation I think. It probably also illustrates how people put on weight over months and years.

Oddly, if I maintain that rate of loss I will attain my (admittedly arbitrary) target of 80kg at the end of May exactly a year after joining the gym. Further if I project that rate of weight loss back from September to my first workout it implies that I would have weighed fifteen and a half stone then. Difficult to concede but all too likely.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Spontaneous Demonstrations

A nice comment on the ways of the world brought to my attention by PooterGeek.

An Age of Wonders

Scanning through my blogroll this morning I picked up on Pandora from a post in Eamonn Fitzgerald's Rainy Day.

Pandora uses the Music Genome Project .

Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings - new and old, well known and completely obscure - to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice. Then sit back and enjoy as it creates a listening experience full of current and soon-to-be favorite songs for you.
You can create as many "stations" as you want. And you can even refine them. If it's not quite right you can tell it more and it will get better for you.
As anyone who knows me might guess I have created and am listening to Prince Radio. (Try it.)The Isley Brothers' 'Caravan of Love' is on at the moment and life is good.

My five year old was watching BAMZOOKi before school yesterday morning. On the show, contestants compete with three Zooks (virtual creatures) which they have created in a series of challenges.

In the evening I downloaded the the Bamzooki Zook kit, and we played at creating 3D moving beasties. If we come up with something good enough, Ben could submit it to take part in the show.

As Eamonn observes:
We take such astonishing innovations for granted now, but we shouldn't. These may be troubled times but this is an age of wonders.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Written Lives

Chris has asked me to nominate a book for his next get together. Intrigued by a link in Arts and Letters Daily to this review, I propose
Rimbaud, Conrad, Rilke, Mann, Dinesen, Maugham, Lowry, Mishima, Turgenev, Joyce, Faulkner et al. Great writers, disastrous people...

to join Brideshead Revisited and Birds Without Wings (which I have read) plus The Discovery of Slowness (which I have not).

Interesting to note that both 'Written Lives' and 'Slowness' are being put out by the same independent publisher: Cannongate Books.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Dragon Boy

Now that I don't sleep, or think that I don't sleep, or perhaps doze and sleep fitfully, I have the BBC World Service on at a low but audible volume through the night.

At a quarter to five this morning, I heard a great reading by a guy called Lee Ingleby of a fine short story called 'Dragon Boy' written by Abigail Youngman. You should be able to listen to it as well - at least for a while on the "Off the Shelf" home page. It is about the bullying of a Serbian refugee called Dragan at an English primary school.

"Dragon Boy" is the second in a week of stories which were runners up in the recent World Service Short Story Competition which makes me wonder how good the winners were. You can listen to and read the winners here. The text of the runners up doesn't seem to be available unfortunately.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Inspired by normblog late last year; a philosophical reflection on the passive aggressive ambience that pervaded the practical arrangements of yesterday's move:
If I was to express an idea walking alone in the park with no one around to hear would it still be wrong?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My Wife Next Door

A couple of years ago I bought the house next door as an investment and also with a vague plan of perhaps knocking the two semis together as one big family house.

Today - what with one thing and another - I am moving into it while Jane remains at number 13. Who can say how that will work out?

In light of this unusual domestic arrangement, I tried googling the text string "my wife next door" to see if I could make a whimsical reference to, or find an image from, the 1970s TV series of that name that starred John Alderton and Hannah Gordon. Safesearch was off and I got an even bigger shock from the results of the image search than I did last year when I was investigating booty.

It is somehow irresistibly funny however to see the black and white head shot above (ho, ho very satirical) of John Alderton in his Seventies, mustachioed, mega-collared, pomp among all the technicolour porn.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Lost Weekend

My brother has come up to London for the England Wales game at Twickenham so today blogging will be light while eating and drinking will be heavy.

In light of his chat before Christmas, we will be brunching at the Lahore Karahi, for:
As the cold weather approaches we forget the whimsical salads and grilled foods and think of slow - cooked foods, that have simmered gently in a pot.

The sensible people of Punjab eat nihari for breakfast. Nihari is a slow cooked lamb curry; the meat is cooked on the bone; the dish gets on the fire in the evening, bubbles away through the night and is served the following morning after about twelve hours'cooking. Nihari should be eaten out of a bowl with fresh nan bread. Lahore Karahi's Nihari is good; it is an epic dish. Very rich, very spicy and with an amazing concentration of flavours and it is resolutely cheap.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Windows RSS Platform

Back in 2003 I gave a presentation "RSS at the Tipping Point" to the Met and several other Police forces.

I had the following conclusions and recommmendations:

RSS is a practical working technology not a prototype or a pipe dream. It offers an achievable base camp on the computer industry’s long march towards ubiquitous XML.

Aggregators are the key to deriving operational rewards from RSS, but organisations should shy away from developing their own aggregating software. Competition in the aggregator market, and perhaps the entry of the largest software companies, will provide cheap, innovative useful tools.

It would be prudent to add RSS feeds (and auto discovery) on an ongoing basis to all new software projects. The marginal costs will be very small.

Pilot projects should be undertaken to introduce the software and concepts to a range of staff.

Now I read on Microsoft's IEBlog of the Windows RSS Platform:

You might have seen or read about the RSS functionality in the user interface of IE7 Beta 2 Preview. There is a bit more to it then just letting users subscribe and read feeds from the IE7 user interface. The RSS functionality in IE7 is "powered" by the Windows RSS Platform. The Windows RSS Platform API encapsulates 3 main components: Common Feed List, Feed Synchronization Engine, and Feed Store.

The RSS functionality in IE7 is built on top of these components. While we previously announced that the Windows RSS Platform would be available for Windows Vista, we are extremely pleased to announce that the Windows RSS Platform will also be available as part of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows XP 64-bit.

The Windows RSS Platform is available to any application. The idea is that applications can utilize the Windows RSS Platform to become RSS enabled without having to re-implement basic RSS building blocks. This can significantly reduce the time and effort application developers have to invest in order to integrate RSS into their programs.

So anyone who had followed my advice all that time ago would now be in a position to exploit all this new goodness at a huge return in terms of bangs per buck.

This illustrates a perenial problem of the business. Technology Strategy is a real skill and advantage that we have, but we never make any money out of it and only get paid for implementations.

I'm not sure what I can do about it though.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bumblebee Auctions

According to Alexa, the three month running average rank of Bumblebee Auctions is 246,829. This means that it is in the quarter of a million most popular sites in the world.

Today - after the Guardian plug on the weekend it is ranked at 62,790 and has a one week average rank of 51,582. I can see from the graph above that at its recent peak it was around the 35 thousandth most popular site in the world. No wonder our infrastructure was creaking.

The banner and graph above update once a day. I am going to book mark the permalink for this post and look at it regularly for the next few weeks.

Swansea Skydivers

Another picture from Chris's cache has reminded me of the time that we went parachuting to celebrate finishing our degrees. This, as you can see, was in the days before it became compulsory to dress up like a harlequin while participating in any extreme sport.

There is a sad postscript. Later that year all our instructors were killed when their helicopter crashed at Mannheim. I remember very well that it happened on the weekend that I had moved to London to join Fluor.

I found a report of the 20th anniversary tribute services. When you are learning to parachute you get taught detailed drills that you are supposed to follow in the event of trouble. Everyone was killed in Mannheim, but I remember being very moved at the time when I read that the crash investigations and the position of the bodies on the ground showed that no one had panicked and that they had attempted to get out in good order as the 'copter plummeted to the ground.


This morning's weather has dislodged a limerick (by Kipling of all people) from my subconscious:

There was a small boy of Quebec,
Who was buried in snow to his neck;
When they said, "Are you friz?"
He replied, " Yes, I is -
But we don't call this cold in Quebec."

I wrote a limerick once myself.
There was a young man who sang la
lalala lalala lala
lalala lalala lala

Keep it local

The "eat your way around the world in London" collective set off with the best of intentions last night. Unfortunately a stiffener in the William Morris turned to two then three etc. and we ended up in the Spice of Raj. I could have written that up as Bangladeshi I guess, but that is not really in the spirit of the campaign.

There's always next week.

It reminds me of an old Ben Elton joke about soft drugs leading to hard drugs; if you drink enough lager, you will go on to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Both the Ladies and the Gentlemen

Transexuals who have yet to have a sex-change operation will be entitled to have two ID cards.
One card would be in their gender at birth and the other in their legally-acquired 'gender of designation', Home Office minister Baroness Scotland of Asthal disclosed last night.

Beachcomber, Thou Should'st Be Living at This Hour!

Racial and Religious Hatred

I have been droning on and on for nearly a year now about my opposition to the government's "Racial and Religious Hatred" proposals, so you would think I would be over the moon this morning about the two defeats in Parliament last night.

In fact I am just confused. I went to a Platform event at the National Theatre last Friday, put on by PEN's "Free Expression is No Offence" campaign at which I am sure that Anthony Lester said that Charles Clarke has accepted the Lords' amendments, yet I am pretty sure that it was the Lords' amendments that last night's rebellions carried through.

I need to look at this in more detail, and won't have time to - what with earning a crust in the week and Wales at Twickenham this weekend - for a while.

Don't put out the bunting yet, I am far from certain that it was not merely a Phyrric victory.

San Fermin

The story and footage of the bull jumping into the crowd in Mexico City's bullring sent me back to Chris's pictures of visits to Pamplona's fiesta.

Chris is behind the camera on this one, but Sean and I could well be in the melee. We must have been as mad as hops.

I remember the first time that we ran with the bulls we didn't have a clue what we were doing. We joined the throng that seemed to be awaiting the release and wormed our way through. When we got to the edge Sean creased his brow, pointed down the empty road and asked aloud, "what if the bulls come from that direction?" We insinuated our way back to the centre of the crowd and awaited our fate.