Friday, January 31, 2020

Owed to Joy

My plan for tomorrow morning is to go to yoga first thing, then pop in to Coffee in the Wood for breakfast, thence next door to get my hair cut.

In the afternoon I will go to the Standard to watch the six nations rugby with the son and heir, thence next door for a pizza in Corleone's.

I think it is possible to exaggerate how much influence leaving the EU tonight will have had on this.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

quid pro quo

I was out yesterday afternoon at the funeral of Frankie's 93 year old mother. Just as I feared (Icons passim) the video of my dancing with her turned up as part of the proceedings and this time I finally had to watch it. Uptown Funk was the guilty tune.

Talking to Steve at the reception I learned that he is reading Tom Holland now after learning the same thing from Sean last weekend. My plugging must have been a lot more breathless that I remember.

Steve reciprocated by saying that The Human Stain, by Philip Roth is the best novel he has ever read. That is on my Amazon wish list now. I finally managed how to add it via the Kindle app on my phone. I still can't work out how to read the wish list on Android though. I would have imagined that would be a basic requirement given that whenever a finish a book I need to buy a new one.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Father

Grauniard: Anthony Hopkins drives devastating dementia drama
A brutal, trippy portrait of what it must feel like to lose your grip on reality boasts an Oscar-worthy performance
Most years at Sundance, usually within the midnight movies strand, a horror film breaks out, terrifying all those able to endure it, kickstarting a buzz that continues through to release with poster quotes daring only the bravest of audiences to go see. In previous years there’s been Saw, Hereditary, Get Out, The Babadook and The Blair Witch Project but this year, the scariest film isn’t about a sadistic killer or an evil cult. It’s not even a scary movie in any traditional sense. It’s a film about the bone-chilling horror of living with dementia and it’ll haunt me for weeks.
Based on the acclaimed, award-winning play, The Father starts out as a deceptively simple drama hinged on a deceptively familiar dynamic. Anne (Olivia Colman) is losing patience with her 80-year-old father, Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), whose grip on reality is fading but who refuses to allow a carer to look after him. She’s moving to Paris and needs to ensure his safety while she is away so before she leaves she must find someone who will endure him. For Anthony, life has become a source of ever-disorienting confusion and in a masterful stroke, the writer-director Florian Zeller (who created the original stage production) tells the story from his eyes as characters and locations shift and we become as muddled as he.
No sign (as far as I can see) of a UK release date for this yet but we will have to see it. It is yet another entry in the Ageing Curmudgeon Confronts Mortality stakes (Icons passim) and last time my brother John was up, PG entertained him and me with stories about visiting Hopkins' dad's baker's shop in the late 50s.

I also notice that Christopher Hampton (that's Sir Christopher James Hampton CBE FRSL to you, Prodnose) has got a screenwriting credit on it. As PG directed his Tales from Hollywood at the National back in the day, more anecdotes may be forthcoming.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Xi Jinping Vows To Combat Coronavirus By Making It Illegal To Mention

In an effort to assuage concerns about how his government has handled the deadly disease outbreak, Chinese president Xi Jinping held a press conference Monday to announce plans to combat the coronavirus by making it illegal to mention within the next week. “We are directing massive resources towards eradicating the slightest hint of any person speaking about the virus, and I promise you that any conversation or literature pertaining to the virus will be completely eliminated during the next seven days,” said Xi, warning that if immediate action was not taken, it could be too late to stop the spread of information. “We have already seen far too many senseless deaths as a result of this outbreak, so I vow here and now that those official death toll numbers will remain unchanged.” Xi closed his remarks by urging anyone who believed they were suffering from the outbreak or knew someone who was to come forward so they could be executed.
This is so close to what Kevin was telling us on Friday night, with the number of infections doubling in a day, that words fail me. Use your discretion.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The big question mark

Why Ben prefers to spend the latter part of January with his brother in Florida when he could be freezing his knackers off with the rest of us in the UK is one of the great unexplained mysteries.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Killer in Manila

The year is 1997, corruption was rife in the Philippines with the Capital Manila at the centre of that corruption.Two of the most powerful men in the World, Simon Moore and Boyd Stevenson were at logger heads with each other. They had offices Australia, Hong Kong, London and New York and of course Manila.Into this violent World stumbled five mid forty guys from the quiet sedate town of Henley on Thames, the sporting tour to beat all others was planned. The tour took in the Hong Kong Sevens, The F1 in Kuala Lumpur and the Manila tens.It was madness all the way. With Manila adding the icing on the cake. Manila, love, Madness. Five guys left these shores only one returned.

Kevin told me about the book above that Mike has written. I was one of the five who went to the Hong Kong Sevens and Manila with them in the mid nineties for all that I am a decade younger, not from Henley and managed to return.

I wonder if I dare read it?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Vulcan

Back in 2012 (Icons passim) we said goodbye to the pub my dad lived opposite as a kid; Adam Street's The Vulcan, though a decision was taken to dismantle the building and restore it to its former glory at St Fagan's Museum - brick by brick.

Coming up for eight years later the rebuild has begun and is predicted to take another three.

See Vulcan Hotel | National Museum Wales. I wonder if we weigh in with a few quid if they will let the family book it for a party once it is done?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Passing the torch

Arsenal drew two all at Chelsea in the week.

18 year old Gabriel Martinelli (born 18 June 2001) scored from the left wing for the Gunners, ably supported by 18 year old Bukayo Saka (born 5 September 2001) at left back.

After the Burnley game at the weekend, Chelsea fans had been purring about the long term potential of playing 19 year old Callum (born 7 November 2000) up front on the right wing supported by the practicality geriatric 20 year old Reece James (born 8 December 1999) at right back.

New kids on the block no more. I was born in the 60s.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!

I was sad to hear that Terry Jones, founder member of Monty Python and director of three of Python’s celebrated feature films, has died aged 77, but cheered to learn that (as he came into the world in Colwyn Bay) I can anoint him as 2020's first Welsh Born Icon.

For what it is worth a friend of mine was behind him in a queue at some museum or gallery years ago and reported that he was a very pleasant chap.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Ben in the U.S.A (I'm a cool rockin' Daddy in the U.S.A. now)

Iguanas are falling from trees in south Florida as unusually low temperatures sweep through the region. The invasive species can become sluggish when temperatures drop below 50F (10C) and are susceptible to freezing once temperatures drop to around 40F (4.5C) and once frozen, these cold-blooded creatures lose their grip on the trees they call home. Residents have expressed shock at the sight of rigid reptiles lying motionless in the middle of sidewalks and backyards. But while they appear lifeless, they are simple too cold to move.
As if I didn't have enough on my plate, now I have to worry about Ben being poleaxed by a frozen iguana falling out if a tree while he is visiting Rayburn in Florida. (Why an iguana is visiting Rayburn in Florida, I couldn't possibly say.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

If the salary cap fits, wear it.

Saracens have "unreservedly apologised for mistakes made in relation to the salary cap" which will see the rugby team relegated from the Premiership at the end of the season........

What is the salary cap?
Premiership Rugby introduced its salary cap in 1999 to ensure the financial viability of all clubs and the competition.
On their website, Premiership Rugby says the cap helps "to provide a level playing field for clubs".
The salary cap focuses on the combined salaries of each player at the club within the salary cap year - July 1 to June 30.
The current level of the Salary Cap is £7 million, plus two Excluded Players whose salaries sit outside the cap, enabling clubs to recruit and retain world class talent.
As a result there is no restriction to individual player's salary, but on the whole squad spend.
Let's see, seven million divided by fifty two gives us £134,615.38 a week.

Callum Hudson-Odoi signs new five-year, £120,000-a-week contract with Chelsea.
So Callum pretty much earns the Premiership Rugby total squad salary cap on his own.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Snitches get riches

After last week's overcrowding fiasco, there is a new formal booking system for the Antelope's Monday night quiz.

The first reference to it on these spin drift pages is from May 14 2012, and I remember that the first time I ever went was after getting back from a Burnham on Sea mini rugby tournament that Ben played over the May Day bank holiday weekend which I guess suggests May 1st, 2012 was "summer the first time." (Correction: May 7 was the Bank Holiday in 2012.)

Tempus fugit. Jack's been hosting it all of that time, which is quite a stint.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Joker: Gentlemen! Let's broaden our minds. Lawrence?

I have taken to linking the headings of these posts to last year's entry so I can see that it is a year since we went to see Paapa in The Convert at the Young Vic. Next up with him is Pass Over in the Kiln Theatre on 4 March. I don't think I have ever been there before.

While we're on the subject of theatre, the NT Liver Cyrano is also booked for 20 February.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

My reading strategy

I have finished reading To Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill by Barney Norris af started reading The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt. When I have finished the latter book I will probably read another one.

There is an exchange from the play Certain Young Men quoted in To Bodies Gone that made me laugh out loud.

Christopher: She wants to send him away to school.
David: Where?
Christopher: That school for very gifted parents.

Twenty first century British education policy skewered with a one liner.

Nineteenth century British education policy skewered with a one liner.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Cwm On Down

Ben is flying off to Florida today visit his brother Rayburn and family for a fortnight.

When we met for lunch this week, he mentioned a mountain biking trail near London where he goes with mates. This reminded me that there are a lot of MTB facilities in South Wales, and to speculate that perhaps he could get a morning or afternoon in the next time we go down to Cardiff to see his grandparents.

There's a Mountain Bike Wales websitest That suggests to me that the Cwmcarn centre will be our best bet. 10 minutes from the M4 and only 15 miles from mum and dad's house.

For Cwmcarn Visitor Centre opening times please visit our website.

To book the uplift service visit Cwmdown Private Uplifts are not permitted on either of the trails.

Shop and bike hire are available from PS Cycles –

There is a shop, café and bike wash, plus pay and display car parking facilities.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The sounding of "a clear alarm to many"

SIR – Armed Forces pilots are awarded different wings badges according to their service. If one switches uniform, for instance from the Royal Navy to the Royal Air Force, Queen’s Regulations are clear: he or she must wear the wings of the new uniform (I did precisely that). Princes Philip, Charles, Andrew and Edward followed this rule, as did King George VI.
When Princes William and Harry decided to wear their original wings (RAF and Army respectively) on their other uniforms while carrying out ceremonial duties, it sounded a clear alarm to many that they considered their personal preferences more important than tradition and the stipulations of Queen’s Regulations. It is disrespectful to the Royal Navy to wear the wings of the RAF (or Army Air Corps), and vice versa.
Justin Tooth
London W3 
Whatever would we do without the Telegraph's letters to the editor to remind us of our duty in these trying times? My attempted parody from 2005 is revealed as thin gruel compared to the real thing.
SIR – The last time I found myself in my local GP's waiting room I couldn't help but notice that the only person present who had taken the time and effort to shine his shoes was a distinguished looking gentleman with a pronounced military bearing, to wit my good self.
Brigadier Sir Bufton Tufton (retd.)
London SW19 and bar

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Oscars: Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grub.

Florence Pugh has got a best supporting actress nomination for Little Women. I first became aware of her when she played played Cordelia to Anthony Hopkins's Lear on the telly in 2018. (Tony Hopkins also has an Oscar nod this year.)

When John was up this weekend we watched "Fighting with my Family." She is in that as well as a wrestler called Paige.

Also in this year's Oscars, Scarlett Johansson has been nominated (alongside Pugh) in the best supporting actress category for her work in "Jojo Rabbit," as well as best actress for her role in "Marriage Story."

Johansson and Pugh will be sisters in the upcoming Black Widow movie. No disrespect, but how much Florence Pugh is enough?

I'm not entirely sure this couldn't be marketed as a Fighting with my Family follow up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1

Her name is Yoshimi
She's a black belt in karate
Working for the city
She has to discipline her body

Cause she knows that
It's demanding
To defeat those evil machines
I know she can beat them

Oh Yoshimi, they don't believe me
But you won't let those robots eat me
Yoshimi, they don't believe me
But you won't let those robots defeat me

We were beaten like a gong at last night's quiz. Not even the satisfaction of drinking for free on the £50 voucher we got for winning last week could wash out the bitter taste of losing to a team who got 44 out of a total of 45 available points.

As we were walking out however Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 by the Flaming Lips came on the PA and all was right with the world.

I bet I haven't heard it for a decade and nobody else in my team seemed to have heard of it at all. God help us if there is a round of alternative rock questions next week.

Monday, January 13, 2020

I’d been given a red shirt from Lindsay Anderson

My brother John and I went along to see Peter Gill yesterday. John continued back to Wales on the M4 afterwards while I tubed it back home.

There is an interview with Brian Cox in the Guardian today that is gaining a certain amount of traction. You can see it on

Here's the money quote:
“I was at the Royal Court. I was doing a play with Alan Bates and it was my 23rd birthday and I’d been given a red shirt from Lindsay Anderson. I’d just washed my hair so I was sort of glistening, heh heh heh, and I walked in and was introduced to her. She put her fingers on my shirt, and said: ‘This is a lovely shirt.’ And she started to run her fingers down the inside of my shirt. And I went: Uh oh! What do you do when you’re being touched up by a royal?”
What do you do?
“It was so funny. James Bolam, he could see what was going on and started going ‘Ooooh’ out of the side of his mouth, which somehow said princess didn’t take in at all. She just kept saying: ‘You were so wonderfully hooded on stage. I wanted to know more about you …’ She was an extraordinay creature. I excused myself and said: ‘Thank you, ma’am,’ and it came to a natural end.”
That would have been in PG's tenure as a Royal Court assistant director unless I miss my guess.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

rite of passage

Hudson-Odoi scores his first in the Premier League | Chelsea 3-0 Burnley | Premier League highlights

You can go straight to the goal at

One more item ticked off his to-do list.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

May you live in interesting times

As the world goes to hell in a handbasket, there is something soothing about Wales Online.

Family miss easyJet flight after row over luggage, for example. All very trying I am sure but it is hardly Iran Says It Unintentionally Shot Down Ukrainian Airliner.

As for The first look out the windows of Cardiff's new tax office HMRC building in the city centre, for all my time in the meditation hall, I can still scarcely aspire to that level of zen equanimity.

Relax. Nothing is under control

Thursday, January 09, 2020

I want you to play a game with me, Ray.

Ben and I went to see the latest Guy Ritchie at the Wimbledon Odeon. I thoroughly enjoyed though I can imagine how someone who didn't relish its winking through the fourth wall might find it something of a trial.

We went to Wahaca after; a tradition that is now over four years old. We must try and fit another one in before he flies off to Florida to see Rayburn.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Ordinary and Extraordinary Means

Frankie's mum passed over yesterday at St George's well into her 90s. Difficult as it is to acknowledge, it was time. There is a video of me dancing with her at a New Year Party a couple of years ago. I have only seen it through my fingers. Though I have heard it is available on social media, I forbid you to search for it.

As I seem to have started an obituaries page above, let me also pay tribute to Neil Innes (the Paul McCartney to Viv Stanshall's Lennon in the Bonzos) who passed away over the New Year.  Chris Howell and I once drove from Swansea to Bridgend to see him play. regard comes no higher.

Finally, here is a link to a Times piece on our office landlord who died in November.
Terry Buckland’s ability on the football pitch was spotted at a young age. In his early teens he had played for Queens Park Rangers, Wimbledon and Barnet, but in 1977, when he was 17, he was signed up to Wimbledon FC as a professional player. He juggled an onerous training timetable — four or five evenings a week and every weekend — with A-level study. It was early proof of a stamina that he would display throughout his life. Aged 18, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which required an operation. A year later his Wimbledon FC doctor noticed a breathlessness in him on the pitch and insisted it was checked out; a secondary tumour on his spine was found attached to his lungs. Buckland turned to chemotherapy and radiotherapy to blast the growth, but the harshness of the 1970s treatments for cancer had an effect on his heart that would thereafter plague him.
I had no idea.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Potential Labour Party Leaders

In May 1930, Oswald Mosley quit his ministerial position in the Labour Government. (He was succeeded in his post by future Prime Minister Clement Attlee.) Up until his resignation, some people thought of Moseley as a potential Labour leader. In 1932 he created the British Union of Fascists.

I  don't have a strong opinion on who should be the next Labour leader but I think that thuis proves that it is important to get the right one.

That said, Andy Tea in his days as a court correspondent saw Keir Starmer acting as a defence lawyer and describes him as very bright and impressive.

Monday, January 06, 2020

eternal recurrence

Good to see that Callum was back on song yesterday after a testing period, scoring one goal and making another as Chelsea beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 in their FA Cup third round tie.

Exactly a year ago to the day (Icons passim) he starred in a 2-0 win for the Blues against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. It is like Groundhog Day.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

the writing's on the wall

Encyclopedia Britannica
Cyrus the Great, also called Cyrus II, (born 590–580 BCE, Media, or Persis [now in Iran]—died c. 529, Asia), conqueror who founded the Achaemenian empire, centred on Persia and comprising the Near East from the Aegean Sea eastward to the Indus River. He is also remembered in the Cyrus legend—first recorded by Xenophon, Greek soldier and author, in his Cyropaedia—as a tolerant and ideal monarch who was called the father of his people by the ancient Persians. In the Bible he is the liberator of the Jews who were captive in Babylonia.
For some reason, I feel I should remind the world, Israelis and Bible Belt fundamentalists about a great Iranian today.

Cyrus the Great (c. 600 or 576 – 530 BC) figures in the Hebrew Bible as the patron and deliverer of the Jews. He is mentioned 23 times by name and alluded to several times more. According to the Bible, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, was the monarch under whom the Babylonian captivity ended. In the first year of his reign he was prompted by God to decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt and that such Jews as cared to might return to their land for this purpose. Moreover, he showed his interest in the project by sending back with them the sacred vessels which had been taken from the First Temple and a considerable sum of money with which to buy building materials.

Saturday, January 04, 2020


First yoga class: September 1, 2009.
500th yoga class: April 1, 2018.
600th yoga class: January 3, 2020 (yesterday).

A little bit better than one a week for a little but more than ten years.

Raj (in my imagination): As a mix of these energies, the number 600 symbolizes spiritual development, balance, home and family stability, responsibility, choices, opportunities, potential, providing for someone, reliability, nurturing someone, solving problems, infinity, eternity, and the change of cycles and phases.

Myself: All very true no doubt but I still can't touch my toes without warming up.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Cabinet of curiosities

‘Two hands are a lot’ — we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…
I haven't yet read the Dominic Cummings's Blog post that is attracting so much heat this morning, but there is a link above for me to follow later. In a nutshell, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser has issued a call for “weirdos and misfits” to apply for jobs in Downing Street as his plans to shake up Whitehall begin to take shape.

It has reminded me though of what Emma told me years ago when I asked her what her secondment to the Cabinet Office at No 10 had been like. "It's full of very intelligent people who probably cut their own hair" she replied. That sounds weird enough to be going on with to me.

Come to think about it, Tracey spent time at the Cabinet Office as well. She told me she was working on a paper on how the government could respond more effectively to unexpected events. Unfortunately its announcement and publication were always having to be postponed because something unexpected had happened.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

AI 'outperforms' doctors diagnosing breast cancer

I despair at the nonsense embedded in,

Money shot:
Unlike the human experts, who had access to the patient's history, AI had only the mammograms to go on. that's a good thing.

David Wooding! thou shouldst be living at this hour. PERFORMS.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The Road not Taken

The National Archives released the Prime Minister's papers from a quarter of a century ago yesterday - see

I think they can be downloaded, but you have to set up an account etc. and I don't have time today, but according to the Torygraph: Malcolm Rifkind wanted to bring Russia in from the cold and make them a member of Nato.

If you want my opinion, NATO should have been disbanded after the Warsaw Pact dissolved itself in 1991, but Rifkind's ideas was a worthy second best.
“The most difficult problem we face is how to integrate Russia into the European and Western family of nations in a realistic and sensitive manner,” the files says.
Noting how Boris Yeltsin, the Russian president, appeared “visibly weakened,” it says the country’s democrats were “on the defensive,” with reformers “antagonistic to NATO enlargement” and eager to exert the country’s might over breakaway nations tempted to join the West.
Mr Rifkind warned that Russia should not become a full NATO member because it would have “the absurd consequence of requiring the West to come to [Russia’s] help in any future frontier conflicts, for example with China” and potentially give Moscow a veto over NATO deploying its military might.
“A possible solution would be to create a new category of Associate Member of NATO. It would, however, give Russia a formal status within NATO, allow it to attend, as of right, Ministerial and other meetings and encourage a gradual convergence and  harmonisation of policy, doctrine and practice.”
Such partial membership would help NATO enlargement, paving the way for former Soviet countries to forge links with the alliance “without rancour and retaliation” from Russia, the document says.
This sound analysis and imaginative suggestion was dismissed as "farcical" by ministers at a Chequers seminar.

Instead our foreign policy concentrated on introducing crony capitalism so as to turn the bulk of the Russian people into paupers, while dealing out their birthright assets to wideboy oligarchs at knock-off prices hence all-but ensuring the emergence of today's revanchist regime.

Malcolm Rifkind joins Norman Tebbit on my list of Conservatives with the wit, at least, to understand how relations with post Communist Russia have been bungled.