Sunday, September 30, 2007

what dreams I have had of his future

It is the New Ninja Bomber's seventh birthday today. When I got a card through the door saying that the Royal Mail had tried and failed to deliver a parcel earlier this week, I assumed that it was most probably a present for him, so I didn't pick it up until yesterday morning. In fact it turned out to be a present for me; Roland Huntford's dual biography of Scott and Amunden gifted by Maturin most likley in light of this post on the British explorer's last letter. (Thanks Rob by the way.)

The coincidence naturally led me (on Ben's birthday and as the world's most sentimental person) back to the last words Scott scribbled in the icy wilderness to his wife about his son, and how - remarkably - that boy grew up to be the famous Sir Peter Markham Scott CH, CBE, DSC, FRS, FZS, a distinguished ornithologist, conservationist, painter and sportsman.

I have written letters on odd pages of this book — will you manage to get them sent? You see I am anxious for you and the boy's future — make the boy interested in natural history if you can, it is better than games — they encourage it at some schools — I know you will keep him out in the open air — try and make him believe in a God, it is comforting.
Oh my dear my dear what dreams I have had of his future .....

I'm ready for another blub up, but looking quickly at the book, I seem to detect a revisionist slant. I'm really not looking forward to finding feet of clay on a national hero, but what must be must be.

Far-called our navies melt away-
On dune and headland sinks the fire-
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

You knows it

alright, have you got...your draw?
got your fags?
got your rizla?
they're the 3 things you need to be in the GLC

Friday, September 28, 2007

Up Market

We sold a Jet Ski a couple of weeks ago, and last night we started auctioning a Jag and an Alfa Romeo.

Our police clients must be dealing with a better class of customer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The fryPhone

I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but there is something I find immensely agreeable about Stephen Fry's public persona. You may imagine me therefore, garbed in the overcoat, muffler scarf and flat cap of the old school football fan, waving my rattle and cheering from the touchlines in support of his new blog -

He has kicked off - unpredictable as ever - with a comparative review of the smartphones on the market in which he displays an effortless and unforced familiarity with all the acronyms that disfigure the world of computing and telecoms. (He genuinley appears to know everything. If I had him and Danny Baker in my quiz team, our troubles here would be over very quickly.)

Of the iPhone he concludes, "only a cross and silly person would pretend to be unimpressed".

This is a phrase that only he would coin, and which we can unhesitatingly apply to the great man himself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Head Start

A new production of a brand new translation of Hedda Gabler is opening in the Colour House Theatre on October 8, 2007. Come and see it or I will drown puppies and kittens in the toxic Wandle. Click here to book.

I remember going to the National Theatre production starring Juliet Sevenson back in the 80s.

For your homework, please invent a Hedda Gabler porn movie name.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The 2% Solution

As the Labour Party congeals in Bournemouth for the first annual knees up of the "Golden Brown" era, the Daily Telegraph has taken it upon itself to enumerate the top hundred movers and shakers of the British left.

Here is the manifesto, and here are the mug-shots of The Left List.

Two of them - Nick Cohen at 70 and Norman Geras at 77 - are among my Facebook Friends.

Considering that my politics - if indeed I have any - incline to Burkean conservatism, and that at the moment I only have fourteen Facebook friends, this is quite a turn up for the books.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Next Steps

Now that the Swansea 10k is out of the way, I've decided to rethink my training programme to keep it fresh for the last quarter of the 2007. Come 2008 I imagine I'll be retooling to get in shape for the Childline Challenge again.

For the last few months, while reserving Mondays for Muay Thai and Thursdays for swimming I've broadly been following a day's weight training with a day of cardio vascular exercise.

Next - while maintaining the Thai boxing and swimming bookends in the programme - I want to look at combining cardio and strength exercises, while perhaps also saving time, by using short, high intensity free weight circuits and interval training. The inspiration is in this article by Mark Twight.

I've tried out some of these ideas and concluded that - reasonable as it sounds - this style of training is a lot easier said than done. An investment in a puke bucket may be wise and I will ease myself into it.

Christmas Eve being three months from today, I also remind myself in advance that "it's not what you do during the Christmas to New Year interregnum that's important, it's what you do between New Year and Christmas". Take it easy for a week or so.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Me Pro; You Celebrity

A terse post as I am just back after driving 400 miles in order to run 10 kilometres in Swansea.

I beat my brother, but then again the DJ from Swansea Bay Radio kept ringing him up and interviewing him live on air during the event which can't have helped his concentration.

When did he become a celebrity?

Saturday, September 22, 2007


The Profit Burglar has signed up for Sting for Nolte, though we're going along to Theatre 503 on Wednesday rather than King's College School on Monday.

Casting around for further things (other than laughing at dead fish) to do and see, I've come across Lady Hamilton's Attitudes which is on at the Chapter House on October 9 as part of the new Wimbledon Book Festival.

Kate Williams, author of England's Mistress: the Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, takes the audience back to 18th Century London and Naples. Emma began as a young dancer in brothels and shows, and when she became a Lady, she set London and Naples on fire with her performance of Attitudes, classical poses in see-through dress. Sophie Edmonds, from the troupe the Lady Greys, performs the Attitudes - and shows why visitors from Goethe to the English Prince of Wales were so transfixed.

Exotic tableaux such a the Attitudes are surely part of the lineage that culminated in the Windmill Theatre's cheeky revues in London in the 1930s. (I also seem to remember Beachcomber's rascally Captain Foulenough vulgarly disrupting a similar uplifting exhibition in one of his disreputable escapades.) Who could have imagined that Lady Hamilton was an inspiration?

Will you be joining me at the venue next month?

Dress code: chiffon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Where is thy death?

Sting for Nolte is the tragic tale of Dr Allen Malcolm, a young philosopher whose fiancee gives him tickets to a Sting concert.

Malcolm is caught. Should he lie and tell her that he's delighted? Can he really continue to love anyone who likes Sting?

Our hero then conceives of a solution. If Sting were to remake all of Nick Nolte's films, he would suddenly become likeable. Dr Malcolm could then be happy about going to the concert and still marry the woman of his dreams.

...Simple, or so he thinks!

I'm pretty sure that I read in the paper last night, that this fine sounding play is on somewhere around here on Monday night. I can't find any details online, but if it is that is where I will be.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Into a rant

From the local rag:

Quentin Tarantino chose the less-than-glamorous surrounds of Wimbledon dog track to launch his new movie on Monday.

Well I never. "Trying to forget something as intriguing as this would be an exercise in futility".

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Scott's Letter

Dearest Darling – we are in a very tight corner and I have doubts of pulling through – In our short lunch hours I take advantage of a very small measure of warmth to write letters preparatory to a possible end – the first is naturally to you on whom my thought mostly dwell waking or sleeping – if anything happens to me I shall like you to know how much you have meant to me and that pleasant recollections are with me as I depart.

Captain Scott's last letter, composed as he and his party were on their ultimately futile struggle back from the Pole. I confess to damp eyes as I read it.

I used to live in Upper Richmond Road, years ago and well rember the now demolished Oates' house and its plaque.

Roath Park lake - as previously noted - has a memorial as well.

We rowed around it last time we were back.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back In The Closet

It may seem like whimsy of genius, but this is from the BBC not The Onion:

The Minneapolis airport toilet where US senator Larry Craig was arrested for allegedly soliciting gay sex is now attracting tourists, say airport staff.

"People are taking pictures," Karen Evans, an information officer at Minneapolis-St Paul international airport, told Associated Press.

Mr Craig, a Republican from Idaho, pleaded guilty in August to disorderly conduct over the toilet incident.

He now says the plea was a mistake and is trying to have it withdrawn.

Depending on the outcome of the case, Mr Craig may reverse his earlier decision to resign by the end of September.

Mr Craig was arrested on 11 June by an undercover airport police officer.

Now it seems that tourists passing through the airport cannot resist the temptation to have a look at the scene.

"We had to just stop and check out the bathroom," said Sally Westby of Minneapolis, on her way to Guatemala with her husband Jon.

"In fact, it's Jon's second time - he was here last week already."

Also from the beyond satire file, I read in the Standard yesterday that Brian Paddick is likely to be the Lib Dem candidate for mayor of London; the Camp Commander, Bonking Boris Johnson, and Red Ken Livingstone duking it out is unlikely to be edifying, but at least it won't be dull.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Give me a hand

Do I detect the hand (hoho) of Dr. Strabismus (whom God Preserve) of Utrecht in the Telegraph?
Scientists have developed a means of shaking hands across continents. Using the internet, the new technology can transmit such properties as grip, movement, even skin texture - everything, in fact, but actual physical contact.

A device that allows computer users to "feel" things online means that old friends thousands of miles apart could shake hands for the first time in years.

As for me, there are few throats I would like to get at if this becomes generally available.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Post to Post

The tickets for the Calzaghe Kessler fight and the confirmation for my entry in the Swansea 10K arrived yesterday. I am competitor 3,505 for the latter, which should make the start interesting.

I've realised that a post here is probably the easiest way of letting my companions on these two jaunts know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Day Job

I showed a video about one of our projects at the police user group meeting last earlier this week that on reflection I decided might be handy to have available conveniently online.

I edited it to a 32MB WMV file in Vista Movie Maker then uploaded it to three streaming video services: blogger (above), Facebook, and - of course - YouTube.

They all make it very easy. I'm pretty much convinced that this is the way forward as opposed to streaming media files from our own servers as in the past.

Friday, September 14, 2007


The fine Resonance monster movie trailer show was on again this morning, and I've retained enough detail to track down one of the films:

Invincible...Indestructible! What was this awesome BEAST born 50 million years out of time?

See a mighty city trampled to destruction! See missiles and atom bombs powerless! See civilisation rioting with fear!

YouTube has also come up with the goods:
According to Wikipedia:
Over 900,000 people, the entire population of Copenhagen, as well as their army, navy and airforce, participated in the film as extras.

It just gets better and better.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

11 forms of alien life are circling the world

A few days ago I stumbled upon a station at 104.4 FM on my car radio. I've been listening to it whenever I'm driving ever since. It is as mad as a box of frogs. Yesterday afternoon there was a show that seemed to consist entirely of 1950s monster movie trailers.

I've tracked it down via Google this morning, it is Resonance FM, it seems to be in trouble, and there is a Real Audio stream at

Nick Cohen, discovered it earlier:
To Resonance, London’s most endearingly eccentric radio station. From a cramped studio above a Soho Tandoori it broadcasts the weirdest playlist on the planet. If you are yearning for the best of Germany’s “electronic krautrock utopia” or “the different forms of Albanian music, art and culture,” then all that – and much, much more – is there for you at 104.4 FM or on-line on the Net. I was on its political programme and afterwards I asked if it was Resonance’s most popular talk show. “Oh no,” said the interviewer. “Our number one show investigates UFOs. I say ‘investigates’ but we do nothing of the sort. Last week the potty presenter put this killer question to his equally bonkers guest: “OK we agree that 11 forms of alien life are circling the world, but tell me: how many of them are reptilian?’”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Drinking and Writing and Reading

I've finished A Thousand Acres, Chris's el grupo recommendation. The novel is a retelling of King Lear set in Iowa twenty odd years ago, and it is a very accomplished work.

I can't talk any more about the book until we hoist the Jolly Roger at the next meeting, so until then divert yourself at The Drinking & Writing Brewery, a site that "works to keep the tradition of the hard-drinking writer alive, and to explore the connection between creativity and alcohol."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Putting the squeeze on

I learned a story from The Telegraph this weekend. Seamus Heaney told it in his Nobel Lecture:

One of the most harrowing moments in the whole history of the harrowing of the heart in Northern Ireland came when a minibus full of workers being driven home one January evening in 1976 was held up by armed and masked men and the occupants of the van ordered at gunpoint to line up at the side of the road. Then one of the masked executioners said to them, "Any Catholics among you, step out here". As it happened, this particular group, with one exception, were all Protestants, so the presumption must have been that the masked men were Protestant paramilitaries about to carry out a tit-for-tat sectarian killing of the Catholic as the odd man out, the one who would have been presumed to be in sympathy with the IRA and all its actions. It was a terrible moment for him, caught between dread and witness, but he did make a motion to step forward. Then, the story goes, in that split second of decision, and in the relative cover of the winter evening darkness, he felt the hand of the Protestant worker next to him take his hand and squeeze it in a signal that said no, don't move, we'll not betray you, nobody need know what faith or party you belong to. All in vain, however, for the man stepped out of the line; but instead of finding a gun at his temple, he was thrown backward and away as the gunmen opened fire on those remaining in the line, for these were not Protestant terrorists, but members, presumably, of the Provisional IRA.

Ever wondered what became of the investigation of the murder of Robert McCartney? The answer is nothing at all, and - by the way - the last of his sisters was driven out of Short Strand by intimidation in October 2005.

Sometimes recording day to day impressions on these pages teaches me sorrowful things about the world.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sir Tasker Watkins, VC

I've pretty much always lived my life according to the precept. "if you're going to be a mediocrity, be the best mediocrity you can".

Not every body does however. The Welsh team wore black armbands in their opening World Cup game yesterday as a tribute to Sir Tasker Watkins, Welsh Rugby Union president for 11 years.

Born in 1918, the son of a coal miner, he won a grammar school scholarship and became a teacher in London. On joining up, he served through the Second World War, initially in the ranks but ending up as a major after being promoted in the field and winning a Victoria Cross along the way. His VC citation reads:
On 16 August 1944 at Barfour, Normandy, France, Lieutenant Watkins' company came under murderous machine-gun fire while advancing through corn fields set with booby traps. The only officer left, Lieutenant Watkins led a bayonet charge with his 30 remaining men against 50 enemy infantry, practically wiping them out. Finally, at dusk, separated from the rest of the battalion, he ordered his men to scatter and after he had personally charged and silenced an enemy machine-gun post, he brought them back to safety. His superb leadership not only saved his men, but decisively influenced the course of the battle.

After the war he read for the bar, and ended his distinguished legal career as deputy Lord Chief Justice.

A Welsh Born Icon, and as Winston Churchill said of another, "we shall never see his like again."

It is also instructive to observe in a period of declining social mobility in the UK, that the Army and the Law (scarcely considered bastions of egalitarianism) were the two institutions through which he ascended.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Dr. Strabismus (whom God Preserve) of Utrecht is to launch Channel 4 minus 1 which will allow viewers to see Channel 4's programmes one hour before they're on Channel 4.

"The channel is an exact replica of Channel 4’s schedule that is simply one hour in advance," the good Doctor has explained. "It will allow viewers to check out shows sixty minutes early, which will give them plenty of time to make sure they don't miss any programmes that happen to tickle their fancy when they are broadcast an hour later."

In a related development Strabismus Laboratories has pre announced a 'battery powered Channel 4 branded fancy tickler' that will be launched in time for Christmas, along with a 'leather grape', 'a revolving wheelbarrow', and 'a hollow glass walking stick for keeping very small flannel shirts'.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sweeps there be who scorn the game

Well, the six week festival of denial, displacement, intellectualization, fantasy, compensation, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression and sublimation that is the World Cup is underway. France have already been beaten, and England broke Johnny Wilkinson when they unwrapped him, so no change there. My id, ego, and super-ego all agree that they want to watch the games on TV, but the id suggests doing it in the pub while the super-ego is reminding me that the view is as good if not better from the sets built in to the treadmills and exercise bikes in Virgin Active. Last night the id triumphed.

All together now:
Rain and wind and hidden sun,
Wild November weather,
Barren field and leafless tree,
Bare of fur or feather,
Sweeps there be who scorn the game,
on them tons of soot fall
Old Alleynians here declare
nought like Rugby Football.

For it's three two three head to head
And it's feet feet feet all the way
And it's fall on the ball
till you're black and blue and all
But the Blue and Black I swear
shall win the day.

Forwards, forwards, hard as nails,
Keep your bellows mended,
Play it long, and play it hard
Till the game is ended.
Pack, shove, break - the ball's away,
Follow, quickly follow;
Times you'd best be standing up,
Times you'd better wallow.

Halves and threes! a word with you:
Don't take passes standing,
Collar low, and while you're young
Learn and love off-handing.
Little or much, a punt to touch
Is just the thing in season;
Bite the grass, but make your pass,
And know the time to freeze on,

'Broken heads and bleeding shins!
What's the cause for sorrow?
Shut your mouth and grin the more,
Plaster time tomorrow.
Young or old this shall remain
Still your favourite story;
Fifteen fellows fighting full,
Out for death or glory.

Friday, September 07, 2007


The emerging themes of this week have been:
a. catching up with old school friends
b. realising how ignorant I am of the world.

I was chatting to Kevin - who was in my class through infant, primary and secondary schools - on the phone yesterday. He is over in Dalian in Northeast China for the opening of a technology and service centre.

I checked the place out on Wikipedia.

It had an eventful century from the mid 19th to the mid 2oth, having been occupied or "leased" by Britain (1858), Japan (1895), Russia (1898), then Japan again after the Russo-Japanese war. Next, "with the unconditional surrender of Japan in August of 1945, Dalian passed to the Soviets, who had taken possession of the city in advance of the end of hostilities and remained in the city until 1955." I find this astounding.

Here's another thing that astonished me: Dalian's "Yuguanjie Church [was] built in 1928 ...... by the Anglican Churches of Britain and Japan jointly." The Anglican Church of Japan? The way that my brain is currently laid out, there's just not a place to file that. The city's Catholic church was built in the 20s while the Japanese were in control as well. How did that happen?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Between the sheets (Phnarr Phnarr)

Today is devoted to books.

First off the bat, I've finished Rob's El Grupo recommendation Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453. Obviously I can't write about in detail until we have met to discuss it, but it is full of practical information. On impaling technique for example:
The Grand Turk [makes] the man he wishes to punish lie down on the ground; a sharp long pole is placed in the rectum; with a big mallet held in both hands the executioner strikes it with all his might, so that the pole, known as a palo, enters the human body, and according to its path, the unfortunate lingers on or dies at once; then he raises the pole and plants it in the ground; thus the unfortunate is left in extremis; he does not live long.

Ouch! So now you know Vlad.

Next up, I have ordered this year's books from the Folio Society as I continue to assemble the library of handsome volumes to which I intend to devote my twilight years. The books will be published over the next twelve months. I can't provide links as they aren't on the Society's website yet, but my choices are:
  • Tolstoy's Anna Karenina
  • Best of Saki
  • Shelley: Collected Poems
  • Food in History by Reay Tannahill
Finally, I dropped Sean a line yesterday after discovering that he was implicated in introducing messy, emotional Welsh to the prim and proper Oxford English Dictionary, and learned from the reply that his magnum opus "The Ethics of Writing" is now at proofs. He's split it into two books, and the first has a definite publication date of January 2008.

If you pre-order it via this link - The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Legacy in Plato and Nietzsche - I get to wet my beak as well via the Amazon affiliates scheme. (I'm not holding my breath.)

It is always good to have the smart as a whip Dr. Burke back in the loop. Far too often with other acquaintances, as my mind wanders while talking to them, I find myself wondering if they might count towards my five vegetables a day .

(If you are an acquaintance reading this, then I obviously don't mean you.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Dar al-Harb

I couldn't help but be struck by the MOD photograph above when it appeared on the front page of several UK national newspapers yesterday. Why are the three Welsh flags flying so prominently? It must be because they are Welsh troops, but it is surprisingly difficult to find out online. All I can establish is that soldiers from the 4 Rifles Battlegroup moved from Basra Palace to the Contingency Operating Base at Basra Airport.

This for some reason has become the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I've suddenly realised that I have no idea whatsoever what we are about in Iraq.

Here's Brendan O'Neil's opinion from SPIKED. Read the whole thing. It is dispiriting but convincing.

The British troop withdrawal from Basra has both been hailed as a victory and described as a defeat. For the UK tabloid the Sun, the movement of 600 soldiers from Basra palace to a British airbase 10 miles outside of Basra is an ‘historic moment’. It has taken ‘guts, skill and determination’, says the Sun, to reach a point where the British can ‘hand the city back to the Iraqis’. Yet for the Daily Mail, the withdrawal is an ‘ignominious defeat’ and a ‘sad day in our military history'.

So, which is it: a memorable or shameful moment for the Brits?

It’s neither. The withdrawal is better understood as a tightly-controlled PR stunt designed to make the British elite’s lack of political will for staying in Iraq look like something more meaningful.

I can't help but wonder how "a tightly-controlled PR stunt" and the fact that I as a British subject haven't got a clue what's going on relate to the MOD's new gagging rules, which state:

Members of the Armed Forces and MOD Civil Servants must seek prior permission from MoD media authorities] if they wish to communicate about defence via books, articles or academic papers; self-publish via a blog, podcast or other shared text, audio or video; take part in external questionnaires, polls, surveys or research projects, speak at conferences, private engagements or other events where the public or media may be present; or contribute to any online community or share information such as a bulletin board, wiki, online social network, or multi-player game...

[This] covers all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies, on issues arising from an individual's official business or experience, whether on-duty, off-duty or in spare time.

I for one, would like to be able to hear what the boys on the ground think.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


The New Ninja Bomber and I are back in the smoke after a week's cwtch with his cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents in Legoland and latterly Wales.

Cwtch is evocative for me, as I remember my Mum saying it when I was a little boy. I wasn't sure if I would find any references to it online, but googling I came across this, published in the Western Mail when cwtch ascended to the OED in 2005:

IT'S one of the nation's favourite words, and symbolises that warm feeling that only closeness to a loved one can create.


Later in the article, Nicholas Shearing - senior editor on the new words group of the Oxford English Dictionary - is quoted as saying:
"Our job is to record the language. And we found the word cwtch was turning up more and more.
"Part of the reason is there has been a spate of writing which recognises Welsh-English as a legitimate dialect, such as Sean Burke.
"When a word gets into the dictionary, it reflects people are more
comfortable with using it."

Hooray for Sean, one of my oldest friends, and now it would seem venerable language maven. (I am aware that read literally the sentence I quote does seem to suggest that he is a "spate of writing" or a "legitimate dialect" rather than an exemplar of the authors writing in Welsh-English, but live and let live, pedantry is the last refuge of the second rate.)