Friday, June 30, 2006


Do you remember that I was puzzled not long ago by the praise of booze in Gertrude Bell's translations of a great Muslim poet? According to Wikipedia:

The work of Hafez is inspired by the Sufi teachings of his time, in which the love of youths and the drinking of (forbidden) wine are metaphors for ecstatic religious states that cannot be otherwise described.
Well I never!

(I've also noticed on rereading that Bell's translations cleave to iambic pentameter the classic meter of English poetry which reminded me in turn of the youth fixation of the early Shakespeare sonnets, so "nothing new under the sun" then.)

Anyway speaking of drinking while looking at youths, we're shutting up shop early today to get to the pub to watch Germany versus Argentina in the World Cup. (We haven't had a war with either of them for ages.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

While There's a Spotlight

Here's a very simple arrangement of a theme from my imaginary Broadway musical. (You can click it for a bigger graphic.) If it looks a bit sparse that is because I am entering it one note at a time and I still haven't figured out how to add slurs, crescendos, glissandos or indeed any articulation symbols at all, though I have figured out how to add lyrics.

Strangely I didn't realise it was in compound time until I tried to transcribe it. It is, if I say so myself, a good tune.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Taking Stock

Wednesday being the day usually assigned to it I thought that, now that our Eat Your Way Around the World in London project is entering its summer recess, this might be a good time to take a snapshot of the maps that we are using to record our progress.

First up here is the world map. The gratifying this about this is that there is still plenty of work to do filling in the gaps.

Looking at the London map it is striking - in a trainspotterish way - how much of our dining has been done along the A24 (the old Roman Road Stane Street).

In a possibly related development I jumped on the scales this morning and found that I had put on about a stone since I last weighed myself in March despite living as a gym rat for the last four months. I'm gonna have to do something about that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I finally got round to trying to transcribe some of my music using the free Finale NotePad. Here's the ten bar introduction to "While There's a Spotlight", a showtune from my imaginary Broadway musical. I can't wipe the grin off my face whenever I look at it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Gertrude Bell

The lines - that I blogged the other day - of the great Persian Sufi poet Hafiz were rendered into English by one Gertude Bell. I've since discovered what a remarkable woman Bell was and how resonant her experiences are with contemporary Iraq. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, she and T.E. Lawrence (WBI) are recognized as almost entirely responsible for creating that modern state in the ancient land of Mesopotamia.

I must learn more about her, but for the time being I just want to record a suspicion I have long harboured; that the Edwardians who inherited the British Empire at its apogee may well have been the best educated, most noble and talented generation that these islands ever spawned, but that didn't help worth a spit with the charnel house of the Great War and the rest of the century.

A lesson in hubris - perhaps but I hope not - for the Pax Americana.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Problem Solved

Only yesterday, I was bitching and moaning about the fact that Edazzle's Amazonbox still displayed items even after they had - lucky man that I am - been bought for me by a third party.

Today, Paul from Edazzle has replied saying:
It's because Amazon doesn't actually remove any items from a wishlist, even when purchased, they just allow you to filter them based on whether how many are desired and how many have been purchased.

What I've done is instead of showing a price and buy button I've put in purchased instead. Take a look at your AmazonBox and let me know what you think. I don't really want to take the items out of the AmazonBox because only ten items are returned for each page call to Amazon - so if someone wanted to display 10 books but 9 had been purchased then they would only see 1 book.

On the wishlist is filtered between purchased and unpurchased - to remove them from the Wishlist you need to actually delete them yourself - then they will disappear from AmazonBox as well.

Hope this helps.

In other words, he has explained why the problem arose and revised the product to help me in a single day! This has profound implications for doing business in the 21st Century ..... blah, blah, blah.

If the court will be upstanding I will deliver my verdict: Paul of Edazzle is a groove and a gas - everyone should send him money and other fine things.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wishlist Problem

It was a thrill yesterday to receive three books, from John my brother as a birthday present. They had been bought - a first - from the Amazon Wishlist that I display on the bottom left of the blog homepage. I was was pretty surprised this morning though, to see that the volumes in question - Terry Jones' Barbarians, The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred, and The Force of Reason - are still being displayed.

At first I thought this must be some sort of Amazon screw up, or maybe a mistake that I had made in compiling the list, but no, the books do not show up on the wish list when it is displayed on on Amazon itself.

I use a tool called Amazonbox from Edazzle to display the list, so the persistence problem must lie there. I've emailed them to see if they can explain it: I've still got a strong feeling it might be a mistake of mine.

In the meantime, can my hordes of admirers note that I have now got the books in question so I don't need any more copies. I only started displaying the wishlist as a way of keeping track of books in which I might be interested, but if other people want to use it who am I to argue?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lay not reproach at the drunkard's door

Bring the cup in thine hand to the Judgment-seat;
Thou shalt rise, oh Hafiz, to Heaven's gate
From the tavern where thou hast tarried late.
And if thou hast worshipped wine, thou shalt meet
The reward that the Faithful attain;
If such thy life, then fear not thy fate,
Thou shalt not have lived and worshipped in vain.

Hafiz of Shiraz (transl. Gertrude Bell)

I'm gradually finding a little time to start looking at the works, in translation of course, of the great Persian Sufi poets, and I am frankly baffled that so much of their work seems to be in praise of booze though - as far as I can tell - they were and remain Muslim exemplars.

Any ideas?

Bring, bring the cup! drink we while yet we may
To our soul's ruin the forbidden draught
Perhaps a treasure-trove is hid away
Among those ruins where the wine has laughed!--
Perhaps the tulip knows the fickleness
Of Fortune's smile, for on her stalk's green shaft
She bears a wine-cup through the wilderness.

The murmuring stream of Ruknabad, the breeze
That blows from out Mosalla's fair pleasaunce,
Summon me back when I would seek heart's ease,
Travelling afar; what though Love's countenance
Be turned full harsh and sorrowful on me,
I care not so that Time's unfriendly glance
Still from my Lady's beauty turned be.

Like Hafiz, drain the goblet cheerfully
While minstrels touch the lute and sweetly sing,
For all that makes thy heart rejoice in thee
Hangs of Life's single, slender, silken string.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jaffle Pies

For all the proliferation of Aussie cooks and fusion cuisine on the telly, it has proved remarkably difficult to locate an establishment serving hot Australian food - as opposed to food prepared under the auspices of an Australian chef - as we we eat our way around the world in London.

I was thinking about the Outback Steakhouse in Wandsworth, but that turned out to be US based, so last night we ended up sitting on the steps outside Richmond Station eating Bush Ranger Delux Jaffle pies from the chairless Jumbucks. (We then proceded in the same spirit to the Walkabout to watch the World Cup over a beer or two.)

It seems that both the Jaffle and the Jaffle Iron (with which it is prepared) are Australian campfire icons from back when the Bushmen cooked a variety of mixed fillings between bread on the open fire.

Ours were made with thin pastry rather than bread, but they did look more like flying saucers than our traditional pies, which have flat crust on a pastry bowl, so they well may be prepared in a sort of mold a la the iron.

Jumbucks was founded in Western Australia, so that is how I will classify this grub in case we find any other Aussie scran on our meanderings.

Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations as we eat our way around the world in London.

PS This may be the last entry in the series for a couple of months as AbbeyFest is coming up and Friday Night Jazz on the bandstand will become our weekly recreation of choice.

PPS I was hoping to elevate Rolf Harris to Welsh-Born-Iconhood, but it wasn't to be. Read this and weep.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

London's "Most Hated"


A 19-storey concrete office block which towers over neighbouring Victorian terraces has been voted London's most hated building.

Colliers Wood Tower in south-west London took 52% of 512 email votes sent to BBC London.

The Colliers Wood Tower, a huge black concrete, glass and steel edifice which is largely unused, is no stranger to "most hated" polls.

Last year it came ninth in a national search for nominations for buildings to be razed for the Channel 4 programme Demolition.

Locals have previously voted it the "worst thing about living in Colliers Wood" and it is so imposing, it is said to have strange effects on the weather around it.

One voter, Alan O'Brien, told BBC London: "Apart from its general ugliness, it also creates huge, hurricane-type winds that make the area an umbrella graveyard."

Another, Rebecca Moses, said: "It looks like it survived a nuclear holocaust", while Christine from Mitcham, south-west London, said she despaired every time she passed it.

Respondents also hated the concrete multi-storey car park which sits next to the tower.

Matt Bell, from the Commission for Architecture, said it was not just the tower's
appearance that was a problem - but its effect on the "streetscape".

"This should be the centre of the neighbourhood, but you can tell when they were designing it they were thinking of vehicles first, and people last," he told BBC London.

While many people called for its demolition, the tower's position, above a Tube line, makes it difficult and expensive.

Instead there are plans to knock down the car park and replace it with a new development which will include a library, as well as brightening up the tower itself which will be partly turned into flats.

Merton Council is expecting a planning application within weeks.

It isn't all cycling along the river and Grade II listed children's theatres here, but if they knocked it down, where would the Muay Thai gym go? Come to think of it, having seen Ong-Bak, the Muay Thai club could probably knock the Tower down with their bare hands.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Work In Progress

I've heard on the grapevine that the Merton Abbey Mills website is being redone.

I've long thought it would be a good idea to have a group calendar of eveying that is going on so I threw a couple of recurring events into a Google calendar as an experiment and have embedded it below.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Buddy Rich

Back in University, Chris and I hired a coach to take us and our friends to see Buddy Rich. Watch this video to see why. You need to see all five minutes, he makes it look so simple - playing with one hand, or no drums in different sections. The sweat dropping off his nose about three and a half minutes in shows how hard he is working.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathers Day

We cycled down the Wandle, stopping to watch and talk to the boys fishing now that the season has started again, until we arrived at Deen City Farm. At the farm he fed the animals and was particularly charmed by the goats.

Later we sent to see "The Wild" at the Odeon and then had a pizza. When we got back we played catch and football in the garden.

Last thing, he picked up the quarter size guitar I bought him a week or so ago and extemporized a song about what a great Dad I was.

Nothing that wasn't happening anyway else on Fathers' Day, but I wanted to write it down so that I will remember it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Free Wheelin'

I did three hours on the bike this morning to see what I might learn for longer trips.

The first thing I learned is that I had better make allowances for my nonexistent sense of direction. I lost the Wandle Trail at Mitcham and had to continue to Croydon on the main roads. Similarly, once there I could'nt pick up the trail again at East Croydon and came back south via Streatham etc.

Combining that with my flaneuresque tendency to follow my nose and get distracted, I had better give myself a modest daily mileage on the long trip.

On the positive side I was pleased to find that I had plenty in the tank when it came to peddling. I probably need to get a better saddle if I am going to cycle all day though.

I also had the fine idea of finishing at Virign Active, where I am now typing this drinking mango and passion fruit with crushed ice before I pop upstairs for a stretch and then take in easy in the spa for a while.

Reading back to SW19 will be my next trip when I have a free day. In the week, Paul suggested that I cycle to Brighton one Saturday and then come back on the Sunday before I attempt the three day trip.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Free Fallin'

She's a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus, and America too
She's a good girl, crazy 'bout Elvis
Loves horses, and her boyfriend too

And it's a long day livin' in Reseda
There's a freeway runnin' through the yard
And I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her
I'm a bad boy for breakin' her heart

And I'm free, free fallin'
Yeah, I'm free, free fallin'

If Dubya gets stuck, nudge him out with your cursor!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Duelos y Quebrantos

I posted late last night, I've got a mountain of work to do today, then I have to take my boy for a haircut and a swimming lesson before we mosey along to the ColourHouse for the football and a Trinidanian barbeque.

As I'm in a hurry I thought I would tell the world what I had for breakfast - 'duelos y quebrantos' from Elizabeth Luard's invaluable "Saffron and Sunshine". It's really just fried chorizo, ham and garlic scrambled into eggs, but I was drawn to it by her melodramatic assertion that:

The name literally means "wounds and suffering", perhaps because the pink of the ham and the scarlet juices from the paprika sausage which "bleed" into the eggs.

Googling it this morning I was delighted to find a reference that told me it was:

Mentioned by Cervantes in the opening lines of Don Quixote de la Mancha, 'duelos y quebrantos on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays' it is usually translated into English as 'hash,' losing the charm of the Spanish, which literally means 'sorrow and sadness'.

"Wounds and suffering" or "sorrow and sadness"? Both sound a touch melancholy for the "most important meal of the day", though "hash" I discard with nary a backward glance.

Google Language Tools, my favourite obfuscator, render it as "Duels and Breaks". All are good but which is right, or does it just illustrate the hazards of translation?

Aesthetically I prefer "wounds and suffering", but that probably says more about me than linguistic rectitude. Go figure.

All of which reminds me of reading the preface to a Harlan Ellison book years ago where he translated the British English "I'm all right Jack" into the American English "screw you baby I got mine".

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Livin' Right

I feed my blog each day and it is getting late by my standards for no entry to have been made for June 14th.

I've been delayed because I have been in the The Colour House Theatre helping them to set up to show the England v Trinidad and Tobago game tomorrow at 5pm so that all the citizens of Abbey Mills plus friends and neighbours can watch the football before going home. (Our auction site has provided some the AV kit that they are using.)

Rest assured that the theatre's beer tap has been thoroughly tested. I am always happy to contribute in any way I can.

Garfield has signed up to put on a specifically Trinidanian barbeque after the game, so God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Wandle Trail

I'm still researching and planning my prospective cycle ride from Cardiff to London. All the guides that I ordered from arrived yesterday, and I have dug up the details of how you get over the courtesy of which says:
Please be advised there are foot/cycle paths on the "old" Severn Bridge (M48) in both directions that are well signposted and accessible from both sides. However there is No foot/cycle path on the new Second Severn Crossing.

Carrying bikes on the tube is explained by Transport for London here. You can only take bikes into stations that do not rely on escalators so I will have to take the district line from Wimbledon to Paddington to get the train to South Wales.

National Rail Enquiries publish information for cyclists here. First Great Western (Tel: 08457 000125 operate the trains from from London Paddington to Reading, Thames Valley, Bristol, South Wales, the Cotswolds, West of England plus Reading to Gatwick Airport:

High Speed Train services between London, South Wales and the West Country can accommodate up to six cycles and advance reservation is recommended, free of charge.
However, reservation is compulsory Monday – Friday for all services arriving at London Paddington between 0700 and 1000 and departing London Paddington between 1500 and 1900.

Now that I have all the information I need, I guess I need to start looking at my fitness, and perhaps as importantly that of my machine.

I'm lucky to live smack in the middle of the eleven and a half mile Wandle Trail walk and cycle route so on Saturday I plan to take it all the way South to East Croydon, then back to the North end at the Thames in Wandsworth before turning and riding back home.

That'll be a little shy of 25 miles but leaves me not too far from either a pub or my house should I or the bike run out of steam.

If that passes off without incident I will get the train to Reading on 1 July and cycle back to home from there. It's about a third of the way from SW19 to Cardiff so it will give me a better idea of how long I will have to spend in the saddle each day when I do the whole thing.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Make Poverty History

Since Benares chef Atul Kochhar appeared on the BBC series Great British Menu, it's been impossible to get a table and the Indian restaurant must now be one of the most expensive in the world, says Toby Young... read

Luckily for me I have already been there back in June last year. I remember that I was so impressed that I put an Amazon Associates link to Kochhar's book Indian Essence: The Fresh Tastes of India's New Cuisine in my post about the visit.

In October I was astonished to be notified that that I had sold two copies of the book via the link. Inspired to check again by Toby Young's review I was bemused to find that I have sold another two since then, the most recent just yesterday.

Money must be sticking to him these days. (I've made a total of £7.49 by the way.)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Stray Teardrop

Gordon has a little boy born in 1999, the year before my five year old came into the world, and has got - out of the goodness of his heart - into the habit of lending me things like DVDs of Marvel cartoons that his little one has watched loads of times while my little one is discovering for the first time.

Last week his gave me a fat deck of Official 2006 FIFA World Cup Trading Cards, because his boy had reached the stage where he had so few left to collect that he could complete his collection direct from the company so he had nothing left to do with his "swapsies".

My boy fell on these with a vengenance and started to arrange them by team. Yesterday when his Mum dropped him off with me he reached into the new FIFA approved England shorts that he got from Next and pulled out the hologrammed label that had been snipped from them when he first pulled them on.

"I've got you a football card to say thank you for the ones you gave me," he said.

Cue not the first but not the last quiet and sentimental yet still authentic blub up from me.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Persian Way

And so to Dish Dash which "draws its influence from Persia, the culinary mother of the Middle East, that spanned the banks of the Nile to the mountains of Northern India, and from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the deserts of Arabia".

We had:
Kookoo - a thick cut omelette
Esfenaj - pan fried sinach and chick peas with garlic and lemon
Lavash - ground lamb wrapped in thin Persian bread
Koobideh Kebab - lamb with paprika, cinnamon, corainder and parsely
Khoresh Baareh - slow cooked lamb with dried limes, cinnamon, rose petals and apples
Khoresh Murgh - mild spiced chicken stew
Battata Harra - spicy fried potatoes
Barberi Nan

Didn't find out which was Parthian or which were derived from the Medes, and Elamites, unfortunately.

Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations as we eat our way around the world in London.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Brangelina Baby

Thanks to PooterGeek for pointing out that Shiloh Pitt is a world-class spoonerism waiting to happen.

I noticed a similar thing about the distinguished social commentator Shere Hite several years ago. The revered Reverend Spooner would have given us a Spinal Tap style "two word review" of her published works merely by attempting to pronounce her name.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Suvai Aruvi

Last Wednesday, Paul and I crossed Sri Lanka off our list as we attempt to eat our way around the world in London at Suvai Aruvi on Colliers Wood High Street. I haven't got around to recording it yet, but as another venue calls for tonight I need to cross it off my to-do list.

Suvai Aruvi is an unlicensed basic caff and take away, and none the worse for that. I had a vegetable roti then a mutton idyyappa kothu. Paul had a vadai and then a chicken biryani (Sri Lankan biryanis are quite dry, hot and distinctive, and certainly nothing like the North Indian versions).

Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations as we eat our way around the world in London.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes

One of the undersung virtues of the internet, and the people that it connects, is the ease with which one can tug on the sleeve of genuine experts and authorites.

I was puzzled yesterday by the phrase "strangers of Rome" from the Acts of the Apostles, but it occurred to me today that Profesor Honora Howell Chapman of the California State University (with whom I am familiar from might very well know the answer off the top of her head. I fired off a speculative email and received a reply by return from which I quote below:

The Greek reads: "hoi epidemountes Romaioi," "the Romans who were visiting (home) from out of town"--so these were people from Rome who were both Jews and converts to Judaism (proselytes) who were there to witness Pentecost.
It seems that I was right therefore when I speculated that the list "strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes" represented an array of degrees of Jewish observance.

The reply also stirred a recollection that A N Wilson in his "Paul: The Mind of an Apostle" suggested that "perhaps one tenth of the entire population of the Empire were Jewish"; an amazing fact - at least to me - that Professor Chapman has also graciously confirmed which puts a whole new spin on the ancient world.

When I win the lottery I think that I will apply myself full time to the study of classical Greek.

Monday, June 05, 2006


When I'm visiting the family in Cardiff, I go to church with my Mum and Dad on Sunday. (From a vestigual sense of filial obligation? Discuss.)

Last Sunday being Pentecost, the Gospel was from Acts 2.

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and
proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

It struck me when I was listening to this that, of course Mesopotamia is modern Iraq, so I decided to look up the other antique and unfamiliar place names on wikipedia.

It turns out that Parthians were from modern Iran as were the Medes, and Elamites, while the Judeans (obviously again) hailed from modern Israel.

Cappadocians were from modern Turkey, just like people from Pontus and Phrygia and Pamphylia and I can hazard a guess at Egypt and Libya as well as Cretes and Arabians when it comes to the map.

What a wonderful response that is to contemporary gibberish about the otherness of folk from those places and to the self satisfied nonsense that we live in uniquely multi-cultural times. It is also striking how similar the region suggested by the list is to the empire carved out 300 or so years earlier by Alexander the Great.

I'm also intrigued by "strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes". The wikipedia entry on proselytes makes me wonder if this list does not represent some sort of array of degrees of Jewish observance, but I've no clue who the "strangers of Rome" might be.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Cardiff to London

I've long had a vague idea that it would be a fine thing to take a few days and cycle from London back home to Cardiff. Dr. Rob's passing comment - as we were propelling our bikes along the canal in Bradford on Avon last weekend - that the towpath could be followed all the way to Reading started to put some flesh on the bones of the idea.

I've been looking at the systrans website and they publish maps that between them cover pretty much the whole route:

The only mystery remaining seems to be the detail of how to get across the River Severn. A 2.5 MB PDF of the National Cylce Network shows a "traffic free section" that I guess goes across the bridge, but I've no further information on exactly how that works, and I am also too dim to know if it is the old or new bridge. Otherwise things are starting to shape up. I think it would be best to budget three days for the trip rather than two so as to allow space to "you know, walk the earth, meet people... get into adventures, like Caine from Kung Fu."

Something else that has struck me is that it would probably be shrewder to take my bike on the train to Cardiff and then cycle to London rather than vice versa, as that way I will arrive at my gaff at the end of the journey and collapse onto my own bed rather than having to get back on the train while nursing aching limbs.

Watch this space.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


The line up for AbbeyFest 2006 is out.

Running from 7th July 2006 - 28th August 2006 this year, the festival, based in the Merton Abbey Mills heritage site where we have our offices, comprises:
We had a blast last year, and we've stepped into the breach with some modest sponsorship for it this year.

If you take a look at the sponsor's page you can see, as well as Coraider, Virgin Active - where I try and get fit- plus Ting'n Ting and the William Morris Public House - where my fitness is squandered.

What goes around comes around.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

According to The Evening Standard yesterday:
Home Secretary John Reid was meeting his ministerial team to discuss the issue of knife crime in the wake of a spate of vicious stabbings.
The meeting came amid speculation that Mr Reid was considering increasing the jail term for those caught carrying a knife from two to five years.

Times change. I can quite clearly remember "Harry" Roberts our secondary school Spanish teacher asking our class how many of us were carrying penknives. A couple of desultory hands were raised.

"And how many of you have got combs in your pockets?" he continued, only to shake his head slowly when most of us owned up confirmed it seemed in his low estimation of an effete and affected, over-groomed and under-practical generation.

I bet he'd be hounded from his job for a similar rhetorical investigation today.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pericles' Funeral Oration

Having lent Mr Howell my copy of "A War Like No Other", and in the week of Memorial Day in the US, Thucydides has been lurking in the back of my mind.

Here is an extract from Pericles Funeral Oration. Did anyone ever put it better or more succinctly?

Our political system does not compete with institutions which are elsewhere in force. We do not copy our neighbours, but try to be an example. Our administration favors the many instead of the few: that is why it is called democracy.
The laws afford equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, but we do not ignore the claims of excellence. When a citizen distinguishes himself, then he will be called to serve the state, in preference to others, not as a matter of privilege but as a reward of merit; and poverty is no bar…
The freedom we enjoy extends also to ordinary life; we are not suspicious of one another, and do not nag our neighbour if he chooses to go his own way. But this freedom does not make us lawless. We are taught to respect the magistrates and the laws, and never to forget that we must protect the injured. And we are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction lies only in the universal feeling of what is right.
Our city is thrown open to the world; we never expel a foreigner. We are free to live exactly as we please, and yet we are always ready to face danger. We love beauty without indulging in fancies, and although we try to improve our intellect, this does not weaken our will.
To admit one’s poverty is no disgrace with us; but we consider it disgraceful not to make an effort to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect public affairs when attending to his private business… We consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as harmless, but as useless; and although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.
We do not look upon discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of political action, but as an indispensable preliminary to acting wisely. We believe that happiness is the fruit of freedom and freedom that of valor, and we do not shrink from the dangers of war.
To sum up, I claim that Athens is the School of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian grows up to develop a happy versatility, a readiness for emergencies, and self-reliance.

Strange that I can imagine Churchill barking these words, but I can't imagine Blair whining his way through them.

Meditating upon "we are also taught to observe those unwritten laws whose sanction lies only in the universal feeling of what is right" certainly exposes the madness of much current legislation.