Tuesday, June 30, 2020


The OneWeb satellite constellation (formerly WorldVu) was a planned initial 650-satellite constellation that was in the process of being built out in 2019–2020, with a goal to provide global satellite Internet broadband services to people everywhere and was previously aiming to provide global services starting in 2021. The constellation was being deployed by OneWeb, formerly known as WorldVu Satellites and headquartered in London, United Kingdom with offices in California, Florida, Virginia, Dubai and Singapore.

OneWeb declared bankruptcy in late March 2020, and has laid off most of their employees (reducing its workforce from 531 employees down to 74) but is maintaining the satellite operations center for the 68 satellites already in orbit while the court determines disposition of the OneWeb assets.

Our government now intends to pay £500m for 20% of it to mitigate the UK’s loss of access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system.

I will continue to follow this with interest as it disappears from the front pages as I find it utterly incomprehensible.

This is the same government that brought us the ongoing track and trace app debacle remember.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Four-square on the Northern Line

The Beeb
Two illegal street parties have been broken up by police during another night of unlawful gatherings in London.
Dispersal zones were put in place in Clapham Common and Tooting Bec Common to clear crowds causing "significant disruptions" on Saturday night.
Tooting Bec is two stops away from me at Colliers Wood on the Northern Line and Clapham Common is only five. What happened to my invitations?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Hugging the cactus

This video is coming up for ten years old. I hold no brief for Mel Gibson, but I admire the courage this must have taken from Robert Downey Jr. Compare and contrast yesterday's deafening silence and cancel culture in general.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Reading stabbings: Victims were 'true gentlemen'

In the aftermath of the stabbings in Reading a week ago tonight, Douglas Murray has said "the gay press, the mainstream press and gay lobbying organisations like Stonewall are primed for what would happen if a right-wing extremist killed people" but adds "they have no idea how to respond when something like Saturday night happens, so they just cover it over."

Referring to coverage of recent events by 'gay press', he says "they don't know what to do when a young Libyan asylum seeker allegedly stabs three gay men in Reading centre on a Saturday night".

I had no idea the victims were gay. Did you? Victims were 'true gentlemen' said the BBC; quite.

I always knew it would come to this (Icons passim). It gives me no satisfaction to be proved right 15 years later.

Have a couple of neologisms on me:
Islamophobiaphobic: the fear of being thought Islamophobic.
Homophobiaphobic: the fear of being thought homophobic.

The former is now higher up the totem pole in polite society than the latter.

Friday, June 26, 2020

a story goes with it

When I was down in Portishead today Charlie was telling me about a section on the BBC news site called Reality Check and particularly an article called "The fake news about India and China's border clash."

It turns out that he had spent time with both the Indian and Bangladeshi armies while serving with British Forces.

He also told me a story about another part of the world, when he was with a ramshackle Sudanese contingent that accidentally strayed over the border into Eritrea. Vegetation stirred and they were intercepted by deeply camouflaged Eritreans who seemed to appear from nowhere. Luckily for Charlie the officers had been trained and Sandhurst and treated him with exemplary civility. Not so much detailing him as "inviting" him back the their headquarters for the evening.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rayburn and Kevin, yes. The media, no.

S. I. Hayakawa
The original version of this book, Language in Action, published in 1941, was in many respects a response to the dangers of propaganda, especially as exemplified in Adolf Hitler's success in persuading millions to share his maniacal and destructive views. It was the writer's conviction then, as it remains now, that everyone needs to have a habitually critical attitude towards language—his own as well as that of others—both for the sake of his personal well being and for his adequate functioning as a citizen. Hitler is gone, but if the majority of our fellow citizens are more susceptible to the slogans of fear and race hatred than to those of peaceful accommodation and mutual respect among human beings, our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue.
Those are wise words above. Once more with feeling, " if the majority of our fellow citizens are more susceptible to the slogans of fear and race hatred than to those of peaceful accommodation and mutual respect among human beings, our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue." I had never even heard of Hayakawa until Rayburn, who lives in Florida now with his partner and daughter, introduced me to his though with the wonderfully understated "I try my best to try and understand what's going on in the world."

Also, last night Kevin told me a story about Test and Trace's Dido Harding and a misplaced decimal point that I won't repeat but also won't forget.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Use it or lose it

Pubs to reopen July 4 - here are the rules and guidelines
Pubs can reopen, but only if they follow strict rules to keep customers safe. For now, it's table service only...
It will be great to get back in the boozer, don't get me wrong, but there have been pluses from sitting out in the park as well.  A month ago (Icons passim) I was decrying everyone's lack of mobility sitting on the grass in the park instead of around a table. Earlier this week at my birthday drink (I's P) I couldn't help but notice how much more comfortable everyone seemed ass to the grass; sitting down, then sitting then getting up again.

Use it or lose it. You are all much less likely to fall down and hurt yourself than you were a month ago. Grapple this to thy souls with hoops of steel. Falling down twice is what really impacted most profoundly on my mother's quality of life. Don't let it happen to you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Plato's Beard

a socially distanced party in the park
I was particularly delighted to get a hand-made card from Ben on my birthday yesterday which contained the quote, attributed to Plato, "Music is moral law. It gives soul to the Universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm and gaiety to life and to everything." How he ever thought of that after listening to me on the quitar or the piano I will never know.

I already knew I shared my birthday with Danny Baker, but I was equally pleased to find that Billy Wilder is a June 22nd man as as well.

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Room Where It Happened

From the Telegraph review of The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton.
Finally, one of the key events over which Bolton eventually quit was Trump’s refusal to countenance a military assault on Iran. The Iranians had shot down an unmanned drone; the military presented a plan to hit their bases, which might have resulted in dozens of casualties. Trump said no. “I don’t like it,” Bolton recalls him stating. “They didn’t kill any of our people.”
For Bolton this was an unforgivable sign of weakness: "the most irrational thing I ever witnessed any president do." Some readers might admire it. For all his faults, Trump has pursued peace and avoided body bags. He is a very human president, perhaps too human – but sometimes he can be surprisingly humane.
I have been saying Trump is a dove for months and everyone looks at me as if I am mad.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

I’m still catching up.

Meet the monk who took a 75-day silent retreat and missed the coronavirus pandemic
How would you explain coronavirus to a younger version of yourself, beamed in from December 2019? How would you explain that, in just a few months, a novel virus has torn across the planet, killing more than 400,000 people and confining a third of the world’s population to their homes? A virus that has incapacitated senior members of the UK government, including the prime minister? And would they even believe you?
It sounds like the sort of light-hearted hypothetical you might be asked at a (virtual) dinner party, but for Daniel Thorson it is not so ridiculous. The 33-year-old lives and works at a Buddhist monastic academy in Vermont, in the northeastern United States, and recently spent two-and-a-half months in a silent retreat, denied any news from the outside world. Upon coming out on 23rd May, he logged in to Twitter and asked his followers: “Did I miss anything?”.
My Zen reply; "You didn't miss anything."
Thorson, who now spends less time on his smartphone and tries to avoid binging on rolling news, is glad he missed what he calls the “anxiety hype cycle” that most of his friends went through in late March, when the world seemed to be falling apart. That said, he is left with one surprising regret. “There is a part of me that wishes I could have been there to watch it, because I've been studying this possibility for years and to have missed it - I don't want to say I feel sad, but it's interesting, I would have liked to learn and see it. But on the whole, what I was doing was so much more valuable than that.
“I’m still catching up.”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Slow Motion Car Crash

With Britain in lockdown, the Government has been trying to find ways to ease restrictions without putting public safety at risk; one solution is a contact-tracing app that can enable digital contact-tracing on a large scale.

On May 5, the Government revealed its first attempt at a contact-tracing app. But in a major u-turn, on June 18, it admitted that the app flawed and it would switch to a model being developed by tech giants Apple and Google.

It is an utter and maniacal disgrace that our betters didn't go with Google and Apple in the first place. Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales explains.

I have been doing a little wood-shedding on this as I was bemused by the fact that the Bluetooth LE protocol was central as I couldn't see (in the absence of beacons) how Bluetooth could be used to track locations. I turns out it is used to check to whom you have been close, not where the closeness occurred. The mist begins to clear. Take a look at https://www.google.com/covid19/exposurenotifications/ and the helpful links.

Matt Hancock criticising Apple's Bluetooth implementation, NHSX etc. God give me strength.

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Hissing of Dumber Fauns

England rugby fans could soon be banned from singing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'
RFU reviewing use of the American slave anthem which has previously been criticised by academics for cultural appropriation
I am not sure that this has been thought through. How would one go about enforcing such a ban? I remember when we were in school a teacher left at the end of a lesson and then returned in high dudgeon claiming that someone had hissed at her on the way out. I hadn't heard any hissing, but it instantly occurred to me (and many other classmates) that it is possible to hiss invisibly. Practically all of us hissed her on the second and many subsequent exits. It was madness to challenge us like that. The deputy head was summoned as I recall, such was the escalation.

I can remember hearing Swing Low Sweet Chariot at an international for the first time watching on the TV when Chris Oti scored a hat trick against Ireland in 1998. I was bemused to say the least.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Angel of the Morning

I have bought a battery pack for my 2nd generation Alexa dot, so it can come in to the bathroom with me now of a morning when I am listening to the news or catching up with the day's Decameron story.

I think it is best that you take my word for the fact that it is working well. I would prefer it if you didn't come in to check while I am about my ablutions.

It also strike me that I should be able to take it out into the garden. The Wi-Fi should reach.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

There is no good title for this

Boris Johnson announces end of the foreign aid 'cashpoint' in the sky
Prime Minister to put UK security first as he scraps international development department
Boris Johnson will use the £14 billion foreign aid budget to counter “Russian meddling” and protect national security after announcing he is to scrap the Department for International Development.
Point of order; if you use the foreign aid budget to protect national security it is no longer the foreign aid budget. God knows I disagreed with David Cameron about many things but at least the man is in possession of a moral compass.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

When you're right, you write

Callum Hudson-Odoi: Chelsea winger to face no further action on an allegation of rape, which is a relief. Here is his Twitter post. Do you remember that he was the first Premier League player to test positive for COVID-19? I remember considering suggesting when he got over it, as he would be immune, he should volunteer at a local old people's home. I wish I had now.

Cf. Manchester United and England's Marcus Rashford who, as well as putting his money and time where his mouth is, penned an open letter this week asking the Government to reverse its decision to cease the free school meals scheme - for which nearly 1.3 million children are eligible - outside of school term time. (It's only a detail in the scheme of things, but that letter is a lovely piece of writing.)

Monday, June 15, 2020

just simple lines intertwining

Mark Ellen and David Hepworth talk to Guy Pratt on their "Word in Your Ear" podcast. I met Mark Ellen in 2009 (Icons passim) and Guy Pratt in 2017 (Icons passim).

 A great entertainer...
 A great Humanitarian...
And my dear friend of 25 years...

Why has David Hepworth been so stand-offish, not bumping into us anywhere do you think?

Sunday, June 14, 2020


Maybe Shelley has the best comment on the current statue controversies:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
This too shall pass

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ricky Valance

Ricky Valance has died. Born David Spencer in Ynysddu, Monmouthshire, Wales, he was best known for the UK number one single "Tell Laura I Love Her", which sold over a million copies in 1960 making him the first male Welsh singer to have a UK number one single hit.

We have a new Welsh Born Icon.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Out and about

I am off to Leamington Spa this morning for the first time in three months.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

If I fell downstairs

We have finished day 8 of the Decameron, so there are only 20 stories left. John, Helen and I have agreed we will move seamlessly on to the 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories next.

I have got very comfortable with listening to the 6 am news then saying "Alexa play the Decameron on Audible everywhere" and having a story play throughput the house as I go through my morning routine. Stephen Fry's Holmes readings will segue neatly. Chekhov next?

The speakers on the ground floor are in a group called "downstairs."

I am a huge Diana Krall fan, but I have been listening to her more than I would if "Alexa, Diana Krall downstairs" didn't consistently make we weep with laughter.

Conjuring up the Beatles with "If I fell downstairs" has been my favourite for the last couple of weeks though.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020


This has gone straight on to my Amazon Prime wishlist.

Available to Rent or Buy: https://bit.ly/DOTBS

Monday, June 08, 2020

Let my people go

This will be my last comment on the George Floyd controversy, except perhaps to observe that I had to put something on the back sear of the car yesterday and I rarely even open any of the two rear doors. I couldn't help but notice that there were two empty cans of lager and a baseball bat in the footwell. Their provenance and how long they have been  there elude me, but I was momentarily grateful I wasn't a black man about to go for drive in a US metropolitan area.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Tom Jones at 80

Happy birthday Sir Tom. I missed two documentaries about him on BBC 4 on Friday. The once above* and Tom Jones at 80. Both to be watched later today I fancy.

* A tonne of bricks? Shorely ton. Ed.

Saturday, June 06, 2020


During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. Codenamed Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region.

Peter told me once that, when directing him in a play, he found out that Hugh Paddick (most famous for Round the Horne's Julian and Sandy) was in the D-Day landings.

I don't get any results trying to Google it, which I find rather touching. Plainly he didn't go around boasting about it. Let's have a him as a representative and symbol of all the other modest and unassuming chaps who were there as well.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Think globally, act locally

I am pleased to be able to say that I know people at all the organisations Stephen Hammond mentions above

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Angus Dalgleish

Angus George Dalgleish (born May 1950) FRCP FRCPath FMedSci is a professor of oncology at St George's, University of London, best known for his contributions to HIV/AIDS research.

Which means he is from round the corner, like.

A former head of MI6 has said he believes the coronavirus pandemic "started as an accident" when the virus escaped from a laboratory in China. Sir Richard, who was the head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004, cited startling new peer-reviewed research produced by Professor Angus Dalgleish, of St George's Hospital at the University of London, and the Norwegian virologist Birger Sorensen.

Fill your boots over by yer.

This one will run and run.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Early in the Mornin'

Being temperamentally unsuited to socially distanced queuing, I have got in the habit during lock-down, of popping to the Co-op at the bottom of the road at 7 am, as soon as it opens, in the morning if I need any bog-standard groceries or supplies.

Yesterday, after scrambling down there in a bit of a rush, I put all my purchases through the automatic scanning till only to discover that I hadn't brought any cash or cards. I turned to the manageress at the manual till over to my right and said "I haven't got any money." She smiled broadly as I explained I had just forgotten it, that I would run back home, get the wherewithal, and be back in five minutes.

She gave me a "no problem at all" gesture and off I hared.  As was walking back with my shopping later, after everything had been sorted out, it struck me that if I had been a black man in Minneapolis I could have ended up in the same circumstances with a knee on my windpipe.

What led to the police arresting and then killing George Floyd remember was a call from the staff at the Cup Foods grocery store on Chicago Ave in Minneapolis, who suspected he had tried to use a counterfeit bill to purchase cigarettes.

On the odd occasion that someone at a checkout puts a note I proffer under an ultra violet counterfeit money detector, I look on with as much interest as he or she does. It would never occur to me that, even if it did turn out to be moody, I would have to do anything but dig in my pocket for a different one.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

A Czech Dreambook

Ludvík Vaculík

People who are not capable of having more than one opinion do not think, they just go straight ahead. I fear that what people regard as thinking is often no more than the ordering of new knowledge and perceptions in such a way as not to disturb those that are already filed. Hardening the stone. People can’t stand it when you fail to live up to their image of you. Their inability to accept you is interpreted as a defect in your character, not theirs.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Second Wave

I haven't seen the footage of a policeman, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, during which Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe”. Ben told me he tried to watch it but he had stop because it was too disturbing. Even after Floyd's pulse stopped, even when he was presumably dead, Chauvin wouldn’t remove his knee I'm told.

I remember the days when the only Minneapolis association in my head was Prince and Paisley Park.

What do we think are the chances of a Covid-19 second wave in the USA?