Friday, July 31, 2020

One door closes and another opens

I can't spend my whole life reading highbrowne stuff like "Chivalry and Empire: The Colonial Argument of the Princess Micomicona Episode in Don Quijote Part I." Sometimes I need to blow the froth off a cold one and settle down in front of a Netflix comic book adaptation.

I've finished Warrior Nun and season two of The Umbrella Academy is due to be released at eight this morning.

Thursday, July 30, 2020


It is mum and dad's 60th wedding anniversary today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Simple Simon

Very cool indeed Simon. Very cool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Beer Pong

The Hendries have an all-weather table tennis set up in the garden and Ben introduced us all to beer pong (a game Rayburn taught him in the States) over the weekend.
Beer pong, also known as Beirut, is a drinking game in which players throw a ping pong ball across a table with the intent of landing the ball in a cup of beer on the other end. The game typically consists of opposing teams of two or more players per side with 6 or 10 cups set up in a triangle formation on each side.[1] Each team then takes turns attempting to throw ping pong balls into the opponent's cups. If a ball lands in a cup (known as a 'make'), the contents of that cup are consumed by the other team and the cup is removed from the table. The first team to eliminate all of the opponent's cups is the winner.
At last, the sport I was born to play.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Harry Houdini's Hat

Harry Houdini started his career touring with carnivals and circuses. At Coney Island in 1893, he met a fellow performer, Wilhelmina Beatrice "Bess" Rahner. When they married in 1894, she joined his  act, which became known as "The Houdinis". For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess worked as his stage assistant.

They were famously devoted, but I am sure I have read or heard somewhere that on the odd, inevitable occasion when they did have a row, he would would be ejected from their caravan and start walking around the fairground. After each lap he would throw his hat in through the window. If Bess threw it back out, he was still in trouble so he would set off again. If she didn't he was forgiven and allowed back in again.

I think this was wonderfully psychologically astute; as tempers cooled the flying hat would gradually become funny, charming and whimsical.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A smoking gun

I have got form questioning the Government's OneWeb aquisition (Icons passim).

It has emerged now that Sam Beckett, the acting permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy raised serious concerns about the purchase.

Herewith the correspondence on the Ministerial direction for the purchase of OneWeb that will cover the redoubtable Ms Beckett in glory sometime in the future when it is bugger all use to anyone.

She was sidelined about a week ago (see this). I wonder why? What an extraordinary coincidence.

While I will continue to stick my nose into the government's business, class is class and I am very impressed by this revelation:
Emily Maitlis has revealed that she received a “text of support” from Dominic Cummings following her Newsnight monologue.
The presenter divided audiences in May after introducing an episode of the political programme with a speech claiming that Cummings had “broken the rules”, after he drove from London to County Durham at the height of lockdown.
Sending a private message of support to someone who is being pilloried for attacking, is one for the ages.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Let's Get Physical

Wimbledon BookFest is running a live, physical event in September, featuring a keynote speech from Matthew Syed.
The festival, entitled Last Days of Summer, will run from 12th to 13th September in an open marquee on Wimbledon Common featuring appearances from inspiring speakers and bestselling adult and children's authors.
Events will have reduced capacities and ticketed entry to ensure it remains safe for everyone, organisers said. The events will also be streamed digitally.
Also, I am going to try and get back in the gym today as it has finally opened. I have done all but nothing since it shut.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Annie Ross

Annie Ross had died aged 89. Born in Mitcham doncha know. I went to see her live (with Link as I recall) when we were in Swansea University but she didn't play because there were only about half a dozen people in the audience.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

You and Ben Browne

Predicted relationship: Parent/Child
Shared DNA: 3,419 cM across 83 segments
Ben has finally had his DNA tested at (I am pretty sure I gave him the kit as a birthday present two years ago. No hurry then.)

I wonder if there is a way we can link his results (and Mia's) to mine in a family tree so they can get access to my research on our Irish ancestors?

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Oh, those Russians

I haven't read all of this yet, but the section I am most intereseted in starts on page 15

Money quote
Whilst the Russian elite have developed ties with a number of countries in recent years, it would appear that the UK has been viewed as a particularly favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money. It is widely recognised that the key to London's appeal was the exploitation of the UK’s investor visa scheme, introduced in 1994, followed by the promotion of a light and limited touch to regulation, with London’s strong capital and housing markets offering sound investment opportunities.
Intelligence and Security C... by The Guardian on Scribd

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Boulangere Potatoes

I was at Coffee in the Wood this morning at six to watch Kevin baking his croissants. He thought I was joking when I suggested it.

The recipe for boulangere potatoes emerged from the French tradition of taking a casserole of potatoes to the local baker so the dish could be placed in the baker's cooling oven to cook. Perhaps I will take a pot of sliced spuds, onions and stock along there tomorrow at about seven.

Monday, July 20, 2020

200,000 lives

Projected increased deaths within one year

  • Covid-19: 50,000
  • Delayed healthcare short term: 12,000 to 25,000
  • Delayed healthcare long term: 185,000
  • Recession: 600 to 12,000
  • Suicide: 500
  • Domestic violence: 20
  • Accidents at home: low tens 
According to the Torygraph this morning,
More than 200,000 people could die from the impact of lockdown and protecting the NHS, an official government report shows.
As national restrictions were imposed, experts from the Department of Health, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the government’s Actuary Department and the Home Office forecast the collateral damage from delays to healthcare and the effects of recession arising from the pandemic response.
It estimated that in a reasonable worst case scenario, around 50,000 people would die from coronavirus in the first six months of the pandemic, with mitigation measures in place.
But in the report published in April they calculated that up to 25,000 could die from delays to treatment in the same period and a further 185,000 in the medium to long term - amounting to nearly one million years of life lost.
I can't find this report April report online, but as soon as I can a link to it will appear here. Someone needs to look this data in the face.

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Ben is in a football tournament today. I didn't even know he played footie.

RECEPTIONIST: Maternity ward, may I help you?
CALLER: Yes, I’m calling about my son. He was born at your hospital in 2011, and I was wondering if I might be able to speak to someone about something.
RECEPTIONIST: What is it that you’re calling about, exactly?
CALLER: My son has turned into a sporty kid.
RECEPTIONIST: I’m sorry, did you say you have a spotty kid? This seems like a matter for his pediatrician.
CALLER: No. He’s sporty. As in, athletic.
RECEPTIONIST: I’m sorry, but we really can’t—
CALLER: He led his youth basketball team in three-point shooting last fall.
RECEPTIONIST: Ma’am, what exactly is the problem?
CALLER: My son is… really good at sports. Like, all of them.
CALLER: Basketball. Soccer. Baseball. Football. And now he’s taken up tennis because it’s the perfect social-distancing sport. And he’s amazing at it!
RECEPTIONIST: This doesn’t seem like something the hospital would be concerned with.
CALLER: Well, I want to make sure he wasn’t switched at birth. He’s really fast! I can barely walk quickly. And he’s got amazing hand-eye coordination! People say to me all the time, “Wow, your son is really good at sports!” And what can I say? “Thank you”? I take zero credit for his athletic ability. It did NOT come from me.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Virtue has a veil, vice a mask

References to Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. I am spoiling you this morning.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Pull the other one

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) is the committee of Parliament with statutory responsibility for oversight of the UK Intelligence Community.

At the beginning of this week the Government, which nominates its members, tried to steamroller Chris Grayling into the role of chair.

The other nominees rebelled and elected Julian Lewis instead, prompting an embarrassed Downing Street to remove the whip from the victor.

The Lewis led committee then confirmed it will publish the long-delayed report into Russian infiltration in the UK next week  before parliament goes into recess.

The former chair of the committee Dominic Grieve said the report had been sent to Downing Street on 17 October last year and was ready for publication once it had been signed off, a process that usually takes up to 10 days.

Yesterday, by an extraordinary coincidence, Downing St accused Putin's hackers of attempting to steal the UK's Covid-19 vaccine research, and also briefed that the Kremlin 'played Jeremy Corbyn as a useful idiot' to publicise classified documents.

Why now? The report will come out before Wednesday. It has been sat on because it will reveal unsavoury details of Tory involvement . My guess is funding by oligarchs to gain influence. Yesterday's shenanigans are a clumsy attempt to pull the sting of next week's embarrassment by creating a fairy story in which this government has always stood up to the assertive Russian bear.

What kind of idiots do they think we are?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Eight to Thirteen

As I was listening to the first chapter of Don Quixote Book 1 Part 3 on Audible this morning, it struck me that I fancied there was a direct reference to Cervantes' novel in Cyrano de Bergerac. It turns out that it is in the conclusion to Act 2 Scene 7.

DE GUICHE (qui s'est dominé, avec un sourire):
. . .Avez-vous lu Don Quichot ?
Je l'ai lu.
Et me découvre au nom de cet hurluberlu.
Veuillez donc méditer alors. . .
UN PORTEUR (paraissant au fond):
Voici la chaise.
Sur le chapitre des moulins !
CYRANO (saluant):
Chapitre treize.
Car, lorsqu'on les attaque, il arrive souvent. . .
J'attaque donc des gens qui tournent à tout vent ?
Qu'un moulinet de leurs grands bras chargés de toiles
Vous lance dans la boue !. . .
Ou bien dans les étoiles !
(De Guiche sort. On le voit remonter en chaise. Les seigneurs s'éloignent en chuchotant. Le Bret les réaccompagne. La foule sort.)

A mystery has emerged. "Chapitre treize" (chapter 13) says Cyrano when de Guiche warns him against titling at windmills, yet - as any fule kno - the windmills appear in chapter 8.

Perhaps others have noticed before me, but wisely concluded that they didn't care.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Where's the beef?

National Cyber Security Centre
Huawei, 5G, and new US sanctions: round-up of NCSC publications
A round-up of publications that explain changes to the NCSC’s advice on ‘managing High Risk Vendors within UK telecommunications networks’.
Well, I have read the bulk of this and I am none the wiser. Broadly is is tautological and disingenuous.
The new US sanction announced in May 2020 means that Huawei is very unlikely to be able to continue to use US technology and software in the design and manufacture of its products. The NCSC has looked very closely at the impact of these changes on the UK and no longer considers that the UK will be able to manage the security risks of using affected Huawei technology in our future 5G networks.
I would be interested if anyone can explain how the second sentence follows from the first in the paragraph above.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Dombey and Son

I left Peter logged on to my Audible account on Sunday so he could get the hang of it trying out various books from my library,

The idea is to sign him up fro a month's free trial with his own account next weekend. That will come with a free credit so this version of Dombey and Son could be just the job as I remember him telling me that he thinks that there might be a play on one of the sub plots.

Great reviews, read by a Welsh actor, more than 40 hours long and free with a trial as opposed to a £34.99 regular price. What is not to like here.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Catch Up

Pubs are going to be opening outdoors in Wales from today. It is strange they have only been open in England for a week and a bit, but when I went for a couple of pints in the Standard yesterday afternoon, it felt as if they had never been away.

Wales ready to play four home games at Twickenham during autumn 'festival of rugby' says the Torygraph today. My initial reaction was that this is madness, but the article goes on to say:
The WRU, which is facing a £50 million loss in revenue if games are not rescheduled, has been forced to consider other venues given warnings from the Welsh government that crowds are ­unlikely to be permitted in Cardiff until the new year.
Between a rock and a hard place.

If the deal is closed, one of the games would be the rescheduled Six Nations clash with Scotland. I had tickets for Wales v Scotland in Cardiff. They have been on my mantelpiece since the it was cancelled. I wonder if they can be swapped for the Twickenham clash.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Jackie Charlton

I was sorry to hear of the death of Jackie Charlton.

I always remember a story he told about learning to be a football manager, because I think we can all learn from it.

In the first game and the first club he managed his team were losing at half time, so he started tearing a strip off them in the changing in the interval. After he finished ranting, a senior player looked up at him and said "Gov, you aren't helping." Charlton says that his was when he realized that by shouting and screaming he was only venting his own ego and embarrassment.

This he said was when he learned that the job was to make the best of what was available to him, and only ever to intervene with the positive intention of improving things.

Everyone can learn from that.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Who's That What's That

I heard this twice on the radio on my way to Leamongton Spa yesterday and rather liked it. Perhaps I can pretend I am Niko B?

We all all about da youth today.

Friday, July 10, 2020


I am leaving the house very early this morning and driving up to Warwickshire, Shakespeare's county of birth. I have also finished Part 1 of Don Quixote.
The History of Cardenio, often referred to as merely Cardenio, is a lost play, known to have been performed by the King's Men, a London theatre company, in 1613. The play is attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher in a Stationers' Register entry of 1653. The content of the play is not known, but it was likely to have been based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote involving the character Cardenio, a young man who has been driven mad and lives in the Sierra Morena. Thomas Shelton's translation of the First Part of Don Quixote was published in 1612, and would thus have been available to the presumed authors of the play.
The RSC tried to re-imagine it in 2011, making this a good post for me to queue up for today.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

My Lowbrow Life

I was rather taken with Summer Feelings - Lennon Stella feat. Charlie Puth (from Scoob! The Album) when it came on the radio as I was driving to work yesterday.

In the evening I watched episode one of Warrior Nun on Netflix.

Caught in the middle of an ancient war between good and evil, a young girl wakes up in a morgue with inexplicable powers. Her search for answers brings her to The Order of the Cruciform Sword, a secret society of warrior nuns sworn to protect the world from evil. While juggling her responsibilities as the chosen one with the normal obstacles of a teenage girl, this mysterious fantasy drama is full of mystery, action, adventure, and teenage romance, proving our main character might fight in the name of good, but she’s no angel.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

They don't care

Whitehall sources suggested on Tuesday night that some care bosses "must accept their share of the blame" for the epidemic in care homes, which is thought to have cost at least 20,000 lives.
"Obviously the Government has to face up to the fact that much of the guidance came too late, and the personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing was a disaster," the senior source said. "But some of these, care providers are no angels either."
Just when we thought the government couldn't get any more shameless and cynical, it has started briefing anonymously against carers in the fallout from Boris' ridiculous outburst the day before yesterday.

My mother is in a home where a resident has just been diagnosed with COVID-19 and my father is in a home where the same thing has happened to a staff member. I haven't seen either of them since February and there is no chance now that I will see them before August.

Welcome to Johnson’s alternative reality – where care home workers get the blame: Marina Hyde.
...... the government is officially blaming care home workers for the deaths of people in care homes – and, presumably, blaming care home workers for the deaths of care home workers themselves. According to Boris Johnson, a Cobra-dodging handshake-nut who was blamelessly “mugged” by the virus himself, “too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have”.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier?

 "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2.

Monday, July 06, 2020

My Highbrow Life

I went over to see Peter Gill in Hammersmith yesterday morning and then met Ben at the Mills for lunch.

I am so used to conversation with Peter being at an exalted level that I was initially confused when he said he had started to watch a documentary about Epstein on Netflix but could't get on with it. I had assumed he was talking about Jacob Epstein the sculptor rather than the notorious Jeffrey Epstein.

Then later over a lager Ben started discoursing about Yukio Mishima, the Japanese author.

I am honoured by this exalted company.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Marek Ziebart

The OneWeb fiasco. Watch this space. I am going to buy Dominic Cummings a geometry set for his birthday.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Bog Standard

The pubs are open and I have had a Stella or two in the Standard.

It was as if all the locals had never been away.

Friday, July 03, 2020


When Andy Tea's laptop went kaput during Tuesday's quiz he said he was going to take it to the IT services place in the High Street. I remembered this yesterday when I had a power supply problem with a Surface Pro so I took it round . Mubashar Ahmad not only fixed the adapter, he refused to take any money for it!

Let's all just big up HAT Services Ltd, 106 High Street, Colliers Wood SW19 2BT. 0203 524 7530

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Florida: Marion County

Rayburn and his family live in Florida; Marion county to be a little more precise. Corona-virus infections seem to be surging there, and the governor, Ron DeSantis, seems to be a loon.

Rebekah Jones, who says she was fired from her job in charge of the state’s official Covid-19 database in May for refusing to manipulate its figures is running her own privately funded version now at

That is where I will be checking regularly for the time being.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The Impossible Dream

We have finished reading the Decameron at the rate of one story a day during lock-down.

I never imagined in my wildest dreams that house arrest could go on so long.

When I say "reading" above, I really mean listening as I ingested via audible. I am now very much taken with having a story playing as I go about my morning business so I intend to continue with Don Quixote for the simple reason that the chapters seem to average out around fifteen minutes. There was talk of Sherlock Holmes but his stories seem to range  from around 45 minutes to an hour and I don't have that much time between getting up and then getting down to the day's business.