Sunday, January 31, 2021

Can you dig it?

The Dig seems to be going down a storm on Netflix, but anyone who can watch it without channeling Ted and Ralph from the Fast Show is a better man that I am.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Munster Soviets


The Irish soviets (Irish: Sóivéidí na hÉireann) were a series of self-declared soviets that formed in Ireland during the revolutionary period of the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War (1919 to 1923), mainly in the province of Munster. "Soviet" in this context refers to a council of workers who control their place of work, not a Soviet state.

Well I never. I hadn't previously heard of these convulsions in the land of my ancestors

Friday, January 29, 2021

Language is wine upon the lips

 I was looking at some Proust yesterday. Specifically the C. K. Scott Moncrieff version “Remembrance of Things Past.”  Philistine that I am, it made me weep with laughter:

For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to say "I'm going to sleep." And half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book which, I imagined, was still in my hands, and to blow out the light; I had been thinking all the time, while I was asleep, of what I had just been reading, but my thoughts had run into a channel of their own, until I myself seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a church, a quartet, the rivalry between François I and Charles V. This impression would persist for some moments after I was awake; it did not disturb my mind, but it lay like scales upon my eyes and prevented them from registering the fact that the candle was no longer burning.

The immortal Beachcomber (J.B. Morton) was brought irresistibly to mind. "Ah, Lolotte has just entered. Lolotte, the little dancer from the Brebis Qui Tousse, who used to shoot plums off trees with a rook-rifle - how long ago?"

Any road, I started googling the great man to see if I could find any more Rive Gauche first-person-singular riffing when I came across "Morton was born at Park Lodge, Mitcham Road, Tooting." Further research revealed "the house where he was born, now demolished, was on the site of what is now the Morley’s store on the corner of Franciscan Road." I feel that there is a pilgrimage in my future if a 15 minute walk counts as a pilgrimage.

Morton applied his love of the surreal not just to his writing but to everyday life. Walking through Guildford one day with Gerald Barry, Morton stopped at a pillar box. He talked into its opening: "Are you alright, my little man? Don't worry, we'll soon get you out." Soon, a concerned crowd gathered to see who was trapped inside. Somebody summoned the fire brigade to help, while Morton and Barry made a discreet exit. Events like this were quite frequent: on another occasion he littered Virginia Woolf's front doorstep with dozens of empty, quart-sized brown ale bottles.

I have added littering Morley's front doorstep with empty brown ale bottles to my to-do list.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Half Chat


The scene above is from Lenny (a 1974 film about the comedian Lenny Bruce, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Bob Fosse) came up when I was talking to my brother on the phone last night. I find it difficult to believe I found it on YouTube given the sensitivities of 2021, but there it is.

The whole movie can be streamed from Amazon Prime Video - see

Also "half chat" which John remembers as an old Cardiff synonym for mixed race  - and of which I had never previously heard - is real according to

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

Callum made his first premier league start for Chelsea on April 4, 2019 (Icons passim).  Maurizio Sarri was the manager, but three months later he made way for Frank Lampard. With the appointment of  Thomas Tuchel yesterday, and only just 20 years old he is on his third gaffer. Doesn't exactly scream continuity does it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bubble, bubble toil and trouble

As I was putting the rubbish out this morning, I noticed a pair of black trousers in the front garden. They looked like they had probably been there some time; I'm not the most diligent of horticulturalists. I popped them in the bag along with the rest of the week's detritus.

Could they have been mine? I pretty much live in black pants; jeans and moleskin as a rule. I had a drink or two (in my bubble you understand) on Saturday night before I got home but surely not enough to start disrobing before I had got the front door open.

I wonder what the neighbours' overactive imaginations made of it? They've been looking at me in askance lately but I just assumed that was because I use Jack Daniels instead of mouth wash, and like to greet the dawn by cranking out Link Wray's Juke Box Mama through my valve amp.

Monday, January 25, 2021

So shines a good deed in a weary world

I dropped PG's weekly grocery shop off yesterday. He is taking things slowly waiting for his first vaccination to kick in. It had been snowing, and when he opened the door to let me out, we bumped into a neighbour spreading gritting salt to clear any ice off Peter's path. What a gent. He was just doing it as a civic duty. If I hadn't been on my way home at that particular moment no-one else would even have known he had done it. Old school.

I remember in the first lockdown Peter ran out of stock and called next door on the phone to see if they had any spare. They did, so he popped over to collect an OXO cube left out on the door step as everyone followed regulations to the letter. The unintended and undeserved bathos of that image sums up 2020 for me.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Time Out

 I can either write something here or I can watch  Man Utd v Liverpool on BBC 1.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Shabbos goy

Yesterday was one month since Dad's funeral. As I have got older (I'm still getting older, it hasn't stopped) I have begun to realise that whenever he wanted to teach me anything he would do it in one or two pithy sentences, the significance of which would only dawn on me later. When I was a little boy - scarcely more than a toddler - he told me that Jewish people were very warm and generous. So generous in fact that they would volunteer to work on Christmas day in vital industries and and services so that everyone else could have the day off. "Wow," I remember thinking.

My brother John is nine years younger than me. I told him that anecdote after the funeral. Guess what he told me. Yup. When he was a little boy - scarcely more than a toddler - Dad told him that Jewish people were very warm and generous. So generous in fact that they would volunteer to work on Christmas day in vital industries and and services so that everyone else could have the day off.

The same explanation to two little boys all but a decade apart is plainly no coincidence. He wanted to inoculate us against the virus of casual antisemitism (I use the word casual advisedly). 

It isn't theoretical. Our family home is at the bottom of Ty Gwyn Avenue. The  Cardiff United synagogue opened around the corner in Ty Gwyn Road in 1955.  One Saturday morning in September 1981, as Elliot Fine walked to that very synagogue with three of his children, a German ex-pat neighbour - who had already plagued the family - rammed his car into them before getting out and stabbing Elliott to death. I was twenty years old. The same age my son is as I write this.

Up until now, I have always been reluctant to share what I think of as the wisdom of my father's teaching. Could he not be, perhaps, accused by grievance brokers of coming close to insulting or patronizing the people of whom he seemed, to my young ears, to have spoken so warmly? I needn't have worried. I learned yesterday, from reading a biography of Harry Truman, of something or someone called a shabbos goy, 

A Shabbos goy (Yiddish: שבת גוי‎, shabbos goy; Hebrew: גוי של שבת) is a non-Jew who performs certain types of work (melakha) which Jewish religious law (halakha) prohibits a Jew from doing on the Sabbath. Notable examples include Maxim Gorky, Harry S. Truman, Colin Powell, Martin Scorsese, and - my particular favourite - the adolescent Elvis Presley, all of whom assisted their Jewish neighbors in this way.

What was my old man boosting but a mirror image of this? A live and let live world of respect, tolerance, help and interdependence. It is no wonder I miss him so much.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

I like Ike

I finished The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s by William I Hitchcock yesterday.

It is a terrific book with many lessons for our boorish times. One lesson is that it is so even handed that the author's obvious respect and admiration for his subject makes his criticism of Eisenhower for letting the CIA off the hook on covert operations all the more devastating.

Lesson two (on this day of days) is the civility of the handover of office from Ike to JFK.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Don't tell Peter


Israel’s coronavirus tsar has warned that a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may be providing less protection than originally hoped, as the country reported a record 10,000 new Covid infections on Monday.

In remarks reported by Army Radio, Nachman Ash said a single dose appeared “less effective than we had thought”, and also lower than Pfizer had suggested.

By contrast, those who had received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine had a six- to 12-fold increase in antibodies, according to data released by Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer on Monday.

The issue of some vaccines being less effective after a single dose rather than two is well known, as well as the fact that protection is not immediate. While the first dose can take several weeks to promote an effective antibody response, the second dose can trigger different responses, supercharging the protection. Pfizer itself says a single dose of its vaccine is about 52% effective. Some countries such as the UK have delayed administering their second doses to try to maximise the number of people given a first dose.

I'm not surprised. The cockamamie idea of giving as many people as possible an initial dose of a Covid vaccine - rather than preserving stocks so there is enough for second jabs first came to my attention when it was suggested by serial self-deluder Tony Blair on 22 December. As an idea it is based on precisely ..... nothing. It is like me suggesting that we could double the amount of shots we have available by halving the dose notwithstanding.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


Back in August (Icons passim) I was talking about parallels between 1968 and 2020. I will try and watch this movie on Netflix tonight. Is it too early to start talking about parallels between 1969 and 2021?

Monday, January 18, 2021

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Kate Bingham

I am off to see PG's this morning. I will do his shopping and drop it off, and then ferry him along to his COVID shot and back.

Ages ago he identified  Kate Bingham is the only bright spot in the Government's response to the virus.

How does he do stuff like that? I've never previously given much truck to intuition but I can't really see any other explanation.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Paved with Good Intentions

These pages are my time machine, and tell me that on the equivalent weekend both last year and the year before my brother John was visiting me. He obviously isn't this year. As for the video above, I found out recently that Chris Rea wrote "The Road to Hell" about the M4 after he was stuck on it for hours after flying back into Heathrow. Demonstrating I like to think John's grit in managing to get here in 2019 and 2020.

In 2018, Burt Reynolds died in the same week Dad was admitted to a care home. Reynolds' swan song 'The Last Movie Star,' led John and I to create the 'Ageing Curmudgeon Confronts Mortality' film genre as a tribute to our old fella.

Kodachrome was another film with the same theme. ditto 'The Meyerowitz Stories' (Icons passim).

Today though I watched Lucky, a Harry Dean Stanton led contribution to the field. We had identified it before but never got round to it. Now it is free on Amazon Prime Video there is no excuse.

It is fantastic.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Splendeurs Et Miniseries

 Frankie sent me a message last Sunday morning so I could tell Peter it was Helen's birthday today. Unfortunately I didn't read it until I had left but I remember that he had mentioned that very day that he thought she would like Balzac so I emailed him and he recommended either "Lost Illusions" or "Splendeurs Et Miseres Des Courtisanes" as a gift from the two of us.

"Lost Illusions" has been delivered. The English title of "Splendeurs Et Miseres Des Courtisanes" is "A Harlot High and Low." I can't speak for everyone, but the latter doesn't scream light-hearted, surprise token birthday present to me, though I have been chuckling to myself imagining it dropping unexpectedly through the letter box.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Decagonal and Quasi-Crystalline Tilings in Medieval Islamic Architecture

The conventional view holds that girih (geometric star-and-polygon, or strapwork) patterns in medieval Islamic architecture were conceived by their designers as a network of zigzagging lines, where the lines were drafted directly with a straightedge and a compass. We show that by 1200 C.E. a conceptual breakthrough occurred in which girih patterns were reconceived as tessellations of a special set of equilateral polygons (“girih tiles”) decorated with lines. These tiles enabled the creation of increasingly complex periodic girih patterns, and by the 15th century, the tessellation approach was combined with self-similar transformations to construct nearly perfect quasi-crystalline Penrose patterns, five centuries before their discovery in the West.
Everything is coming together as investigating the possibilities of geometry in art with the son and heir fuses with reading the Arabian Nights with chums.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Marshall McLuhan (Hat tip Marina Warner)

 Electric circuitry is Orientalizing the West. The contained, the distinct, the separate—our Western legacy—are being replaced by the flowing, the unified, the fused.

Girih (Persian: گره‎, "knot", also written gereh) are decorative Islamic geometric patterns used in architecture and handicraft objects, consisting of angled lines that form an interlaced strapwork pattern. I wonder if there is a connection between them and the Penrose tiling I was burbling on about yesterday?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Kites and darts

I thought of Ben (Icons passim) when I read this interview with Roger Penrose in the SpectacularlyBoring. 
If you’re doing algebra, you just write down the answer. But for geometric or visual work, you have to translate it into words. That takes time. Often the visual people literally don’t finish the papers. The result is that algebraic people do better in exams, so you find more of them at universities.

Unless I miss my guess, the Bomber and I are going to be all over the golden ratio and local pentagonal symmetry like a cheap suit. Keeping it real, I have ordered a magnet pack "Gee thanks Dad!" so that we can investigate it - drum roll please - by attaching things to the fridge.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Xinjiang's Ying and Yang

After the Decameron, at the rate of one story a day, and then Don Quixote, at the rate of one chapter today, we are now working through the Arabian Nights. I leave it up to you to guess the rate.

The Hunchback's Tale, comes quite early on.

In China a tailor and his wife meet a cheerful, drunk hunchback playing the tambourine. They're entertained and invite the hunchback over for dinner. When the tailor playfully stuffs the hunchback's mouth with fish, the hunchback chokes and dies. The tailor panics.

His wife convinces him to leave the body at the home of a Jewish physician. The physician believes the hunchback fell down his stairs and died; his wife tells him to leave the body with their neighbor, the king's Muslim kitchen steward. 

The steward sees the body on the doorstep and starts beating it, convinced it's the unknown thief who's been stealing his food. Fearing he killed the hunchback by accident, the steward leaves the body at a shop door. 

A Christian tradesman who works as the king's broker wanders by, drunk. The broker worries the hunchback will steal his turban and beats the body. A watchman stops and accuses a Christian of killing a Muslim.

Ultimately his execution is ordered. Before this can happen, however, the steward confesses to the murder. He doesn't want to burden his conscience with the death of a Muslim and a Christian. The steward takes the broker's place until the Jewish physician admits to the crime, fearing he'll cause the death of two Muslims. He takes the steward's place. Then the tailor confesses and takes the physician's place. It is almost funny as the executioner tires of the rapidly changing victims.

What we actually have here is a charming parable about religious tolerance and honour.

I was watching Prof Wen-chin Ouyang's lecture "The Curious Life of Objects in the Arabian Nights" on YouTube last night. About three quarters of an hour in ( she identifies where in China this story is set. It is Kashgar. Population 85% Uyghur.

Since 2017, a government crackdown in the far-western region of China known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has seen hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim minorities detained in a vast network of purpose-built detention facilities.

Ironic doesn't begin to describe it.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Somthing's fishy

It has struck me that there are Abbey Mills options for sushi to go with Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (Icons passim) as opposed to more mainstream offerings.

Rock Star Sushi Bar and the intriguing Sugoi. The latter is parked somewhere between beguiling and disturbing:
Inspired in Piss Alley street food market (Tokyo) and Latin American’s (Mexico & Venezuela) street food stalls, we are taking and fusion the best of the Latin and Japanese, traditions, culture and flavors to get a new hardcore street food concept: Noritacos.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Out of my head

I think that this is gonna be part of my life in lock-down sooner rather than later. I have dug out my old trimmer and put it on charge.

What does one do with the clippings though? I can't have them falling all over the floor. May be I need to do it over the sink or in the shower cubicle and then brush them up.

Friday, January 08, 2021

The boy in the bubble


The son and heir and I watched Rurouni Kenshin a while back. I was amazed to be reminded (Icons passim) that I first saw it almost seven years ago.

He's expressed an interest in seeing the sequel Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno. I think we should accessorize with grub from Sushi Gourmet as there is one in the big Sainsbury's opposite.

Perhaps we should buckle up for the whole series? Next up is Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. We can get that on Prime Video.

The two concluding entries in what will now be a five-film saga are due to open in Japan this year. The first of the new installments is the confusingly titled Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, which is due on April 23. The second, Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning, is scheduled for release June 4. Both were originally set to bow last summer but delayed due to COVID. Who is to say they won't be delayed again, or when we might get them in the UK.

Thursday, January 07, 2021



The Hong Kong flu, also known as the 1968 flu pandemic,[1] was a flu pandemic whose outbreak in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated 1–4 million people globally. It is among the deadliest pandemics in history, and was caused by an H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus, which is descended from H2N2 (caused the Asian flu pandemic in 1957-1958) through antigenic shift—a genetic process in which genes from multiple subtypes are reassorted to form a new virus.


Four months into the Hong Kong flu pandemic, American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman and his team had created a vaccine and more than 9 million doses had been manufactured. The same team also played a key role in developing a vaccine during the 1957-58 Asian flu pandemic.

The H3N2 virus returned during the following 1969–70 flu season, which resulted in a second, deadlier wave of deaths in Europe, Japan, and Australia. It remains in circulation today as a strain of seasonal flu.

The more things change the more they stay the same.  As I have remarked before (Icons passim) 1968-69 resonates with 2020-21. Why do we remember the Summer of Love and Woodstock over and above the Hong Kong flu pandemic I wonder?

Also - while we are all patting ourselves on the back about Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca let's revisit a sentence above: "Four months into the Hong Kong flu pandemic, American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman and his team had created a vaccine and more than 9 million doses had been manufactured. "

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Girl from Splott

"It's alright I've got another one in my bag." 

You're not supposed to understand any of this. It has the sole function of reminding me about talking to my brother last night.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Llanwern turning red with dust

 Consett Ale Works

Red Dust, takes its name from the cloud of Iron Oxide, emitted when the Steelworks were in production. In times now long gone, there were red clouds of the dust that would hang over the town, settling on cars and washing hung out to dry! The air in Consett maybe somewhat cleaner now, but the memory remains for many, and lives on in this beer! 

PG's Small Change talks about the red dust from the steelworks when he was growing up. It came up on Sunday when I was telling him about watching On the Waterfront with Ben. I must try and get him a bottle of this Consett Ale.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City


Callum came off the bench to grab Chelsea's consolation goal at the death.  Why he doesn't start regularly is a mystery to me.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

I remembered you the first moment I saw you

I watched On the Waterfront with Ben yesterday. Terry Malloy is a longshoreman from an Irish community in New York, navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of the Church and the mob. That is the same job as my uncle, my grandfather and my great grandfather in Cardiff (Icons passim).

I think knowing that will be good for his imaginative identity.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Down by the Riverside

To be honest with you (and for all that I say him with my sisters and her friends in a pub in Twickenham before he made it) I am pretty much over Eddie Izzard.

That said, if he is at the Riverside Studios all this month running a dail maramthon on a treadmill and following it up with a stand up set, I have to record it. As much as anything so that I remember to tell G about it tomorrow.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Who made you the Pope?

I watched "While you were sleeping" last night. Previously "The Apartment" has been my official Christmas film. This has now changed. It is my official run up to Christmas film. and WYWS is my official between Christmas and New Year film.

Lucy rescues Peter from the train tracks on Christmas Day, but then - on New Year's Day - and after Lucy has got involved with his quirky Catholic family, Peter wakes up.

I loved this movie so much I remember taking mum and dad to see it. I cannot recall doing that with anything else.

Oh, and there is something of Dad in Peter Boyle's Ox. is the only other time I have mentioned the movie on these pages, and I am very pleased to see Uncle Joseph on the same post.