Thursday, March 31, 2022

Make my fists

Teddy Atlas is the trainer who famously once held a gun to the head of a young Mike Tyson when he was with Cus D'Amato.  He seems to have a podcast now, and YouTube recommended this clip from it to me. Teddy Atlas on Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock - Breakdown on Form, Chris Rock's Chin.

I am increasingly bemused by the way that YouTube recommendations seem to fold themselves around my life. I have got no recollection of watching Will Smith slap Chris Rock online, nor of searching Google for it. I think maybe I just caught it on the telly.

I do remember laughing when my brother mentioned it to me on the phone. Why didn't Rock quickly step in with a short, sharp uppercut, he mused. I had to chuckle because that was exactly what I had thought. JPB still throwing a long shadow (though it is probably a feint).

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

Aleksandr Dugin is known as "Putin's brain." To my mind a good old-fashioned mystical fascist whose fantasy world need not long detain us. But then, but then.... by sneering, am I not setting him up as a straw man

Take a look at the video above (five years old BBC Newsnight; the license fee justified in a ten minute clip.) Observe the guile and fluency (in English not his native Russian mark you) with which the tenets of post modernism are tethered to a reactionary agenda.

Is it not just lazy to dismiss him out of hand? It may be that, if he was never born, Ukraine might not be enflamed.

The Theory of a Multipolar World (16 Jun. 2021) £3.99 on Kindle. Shall I hold my nose and jump in?
Alexander Dugin's The Theory of a Multipolar World is a cheerful and optimistic view of a future in which humanity will reach its highest development. However, it will not be the uniform humanity pictured by the globalizing and leveling schemers and manipulators. Instead, old artificial borders will be dissolved and new natural divisions installed. Mankind will blossom in its manifold manifestations, namely the distinct civilizations and the ethnoses that breathe their souls into them. Drawing from a variety of philosophies from both the Right and Left, Dugin maps out the immediate goals and ultimate vision of this theory, and what is required to implement it.

Multipolarity is the tapestry that creates a myriad of colorful potentialities rather than a single dead-end passage, whither an anonymous human mass is herded to languish till the end of days. According to Dugin, the Westphalian system of the sovereignty of nation-states has long since become obsolete and ceased to function. In its place will be erected a continental system of "large spaces" (in the Schmittian sense), where individuals are integrated in the social whole based on the insoluble bond of kinship and common tradition. It will be a time of high adventure, boundless curiosity and the rediscovery of what it truly means to be different and therefore able to think of unique solutions in lieu of standardized ones.
God help us that sounds like a load of old bollocks, but sometimes you just gotta take one for the team.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Do this in memory of me

Last night, John, my brother and nine years younger than me, told me the greatest story I have ever heard about being brought up as an observant Catholic.

Years ago, and after I had left home, he and Kirsten (his girlfriend at the time) were invited to a Saturday night fancy dress party. It was a good way away, so they were going to drive there and stay overnight. That way they could have a social drink and come back on Sunday.

Dad's ears pricked up at this. When, with Sunday's schedule vague and indeterminate, would John be going to Mass? Inspiration struck. Drive round to St Paul's now this minute. The Code of Canon Law (can. 1248), you see, permits Catholics to fulfill their Mass obligation by attending Mass “in the evening of the preceding day.”

John was packed into the car and off they went with John already in his Abraham Lincoln costume. And, this story being a gift that keeps on giving, sporting a week's worth of beard from which, Lincolnesque, he had moments ago shaved the mustache.

They arrived just in time and crept into the back pew. So far so good, but come communion Dad made him queue and receive in character. In the image in my mind's eye John is wearing a stovepipe hat as he approaches the altar.

Back in Bronwydd, Kirsten, already in her Statue of Liberty costume, is making small talk with mum. A detail I'll grant you, but one that elevates the whole yarn to a stratospheric level of sublimity.

What is it like growing up around sane people? In our family we can only speculate.

Monday, March 28, 2022

In a Manner that Must Shame God Himself

Riveting stuff from Vice News (though I had all but forgotten about Vice News; Icons passim). 
Ukrainian forces have been holding Russia back from taking The Black Sea. We embed in the south of Ukraine, to see what the impact is for those living there.
This has got dirt under its fingernails. Compare and contrast with the BBC whose coverage seems to consist almost entirely of correspondents in flack jackets peering down from the roofs of their hotels at the carnage below, which is about as informative as me commenting on closing time at the Royal Standard from the toppest top of the old Brown and Root tower.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

I CATCHPA the Castle

Old musical partner in crime Andy M sent me the image above saying his wife Nic had come across it.

I see two alternatives:

  1. It is genuine
  2. I am having my leg gently pulled for laying on the terminology and jargon rather too thickly when discussing tunes lately.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

I vent to be alone

I may be inadvertently paraphrasing, but I am pretty sure that the great Zlatan Ibrahimović once said something along the lines of:

My father is a Muslim and my mother is a Catholic; none of that has got anything to do with football.

Wise words. 

Here are some unwise words. Holding a press conference in Brussels following meetings with the G7 and NATO, our dear leader was asked whether he would support the idea of Ukraine being given a bye into the World Cup Finals, due to be held in November and December. "Sounds like a good idea to me," he said, seemingly unaware that a free pass for Ukraine would eliminate two of Great Britain's constituent countries.

"Let me put it this way, given what Ukraine has been going through, given the privations that Ukrainian footballers have had to endure, I'm sure that every possible sympathy and allowances should be made for them."

Bell end. Why not just award Ukraine the Jules Rimet Trophy now and have done with it? This kind of platitudinous cobblers makes my blood boil. Everything we have seen over the last month or so suggests that Ukranians have balls so big they have to carry them around in wheel barrows. These are men who would be insulted by the patronising insinuation they needed help unavailable to others to achieve anything.

This distaff side of this lazy sloganeering is equally reprehensible. Last week, the British sports minister Nigel Huddleston increased the pressure around Russian involvement in tennis by suggesting that their players might have to make some kind of political declaration in order to participate in Wimbledon. Why the feck should Daniil Medvedev have to abase himself with a McCarthyist loyalty oath to a man who looks like he would have been bullied out of his lunch money at school by any red-blooded contemporary?

My father is a Ukrainian and my mother is a Russian; none of that has got anything to do with

  • soccer
  • basketball
  • tennis
  • baseball
  • golf
  • running
  • volleyball
  • badminton
  • swimming
  • boxing
  • table tennis
  • skiing
  • ice skating
  • roller skating
  • cricket
  • rugby
  • pool
  • darts
  • football
  • bowling
  • ice hockey
  • surfing
  • karate
  • horse racing
  • snowboarding
  • skateboarding
  • cycling
  • archery
  • fishing
  • gymnastics
  • figure skating
  • rock climbing
  • sumo wrestling
  • taekwondo
  • fencing
  • water skiing
  • jet skiing
  • weight lifting
  • scuba diving
  • judo
  • wind surfing
  • kickboxing
  • sky diving
  • hang gliding
  • bungee jumping

Update: I bashed out the rant above this morning before I looked at the news. 

DUBLIN, March 25 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the West of trying to cancel Russia's rich musical and literary culture, including composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninov, in the same way he said it had cancelled "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling.

I don't know if Putin channeling me or I am channeling him. Anyway it is not a good look for either of us, but then again quod scripsi, scripsi as Pontius Pilate said.

Further, what would we do without Daily Mail exclusives? Free speech to get legal supremacy, says Dominic Raab as he unveils plan to stop democratic debate being 'whittled away by wokery' in major victory over cancel culture

How on earth is that to be squared with  Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston's comments that Russian players "need some potential assurances that they are not supporters of Putin" if they want to play at Wimbledon this summer? Next thing you know they will be allowing people whose views on climate change haven't been formally approved by Greta Thunberg to play.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Wales 2-1 Austria | World Cup Qualifier Semi-Final

Just one more game, and Wales could be in the Qatar World Cup, their first finals since 1958*.

Due to Russia's invasion, Scotland's semi-final with Ukraine will now take place in June, with the winner set to meet us later that month. Imagine if Ukraine beat Scotland. Everyone else in the world with a hint of heart and sentiment will be backing them. Just the way we like it. Circle the wagons. Bring it on.

*I am surprised that there doesn't appear to be any mention of Wales and Juventus legend John Charles anywhere on the pages I write each day considering when I was growing up in Rhiwbina that he lived around the corner and ran a little sports shop in the village. I must correct that omission one day. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

"I suppose if you stick around long enough they have to say something nice about you."

Theatre two nights in a row! "The ambassador is spoiling us."

Actually we had to rearrange AVA (passim) at the last minute because its run was cut short. It wasn't over busy last night, truth be told. It would be a pity if it was curtailed due to bad box-office, I thought it was great.

We had dinner before the show with Peter at Sam's Riverside. Handy as it is in the same building as the theatre. I still can't seem to manage to chisel him out of the Fortress of Solitude long enough to attend an actual production, but he did walk home along the Thames after his meal "as it was a nice night."

Not too shabby for a man in his ninth decade, sir. Not too shabby at all.

Come to think of it, Simon Curtis - Elizabeth McGovern's ever-loving husband - worked as an assistant director to Peter back in the day. Perhaps I should tug on PG's sleeve and ask him to pass on our regards to EMcG via SC.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


 To the Coronet last night for the The Norwegian Ibsen Company's production of "When We Dead Awaken." 80% of it was in Norwegian.

Sad sweet dreamer

It's just one of those things you put down to experience

What a beautiful day! What a beautiful day to fill your tights with sand, stand on your head and say, 'how's that for an egg timer?'
It was directed by Kjetil Bang-Hansen, and the cast included Andrea Bræin Hovig, Øystein Røger and Ragnhild Margrethe Gudbrandsen. So far so good but the company was made up by one James Browne as Ulfhejm; a stage Irishman bear hunter character. (Don't ask.)

He's from Munster like my DNA see

Has any other reader noted the remarkable resemblance between my chromosomes to those of James Browne; thespian. I wonder if we are, by any chance, related?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Audible in full pursuit of the Laudable

This month's Audible credit is in. Let's see what I have added to the wish list over the last four weeks or so.

  1. There Is Nothing For You Here, Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century By: Fiona Hill
  2. The Return of Holy Russia, Apocalyptic History, Mystical Awakening, and the Struggle for the Soul of the World By: Gary Lachman
  3. The Brothers Karamazov By: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  4. Taste, My Life Through Food By: Stanley Tucci
  5. Born to Run By: Bruce Springsteen

The first three would seem to be inspired (if that is the right word) by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Number one, Fiona Hill, not obviously I will grant you, but she was formerly the senior director for European and Russian affairs on President Trump's National Security Council.

Four and five are recommendations from my brother John. And the winner is......... Bruce Spingsteen!

Herewith, the "for why." Bruce's narration of  'Born to Run' is 18 hours and 12 minutes of meaty goodness. John and Lorraine listened to it driving up here from Cardiff last Friday and on the way back to Wales on Saturday, but there is still plenty left. Apparently it is so compelling she has forbidden him from finishing it unless they are in the car together. This is despite apparently never having exhibited any interest in The Boss whatsoever before. Could there be any higher praise?

I am reminded of the deafening silence that descends if you are ever out socially with a couple and one of them inadvertently reveals that they have independently watched a few more episodes of a shared Netflix series than the other.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The slippery slope

On Saturday, Facebook reminded me I was skiing eight years ago, then yesterday Google Photos showed me pictures of Ben on the slopes four years before that. I guess the whole Whitton team used to go in the same week each year. I have never realised that before, I just used to sign up for whatever Dave arranged. 

The picture on the right reminds me that I never felt the slightest remorse about getting permission to take him out of primary school for a week to hit the slopes. He is at the top of a mountain in it with half of his body in Italy and half in Switzerland. We don't understand borders in the UK because we live on an island and this confuses our relationship with, and understanding of, the Continent. How it can be that Putin, for example, doesn't understand the boundary between Russia and Ukraine as something immutable, but rather a regrettable constraint on the narod*. I don't think it is in our domestic curriculum for four to 11 year olds so the visceral geographical sense of it Ben would get passing from one county to another as he made his way down a mountain counts as education.

*Thanks Rod.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Your memories on Facebook

Nick, we care about you and your Facebook memories. We thought that you'd like to look back on this post from 8 years ago.
Ah, but I was so much older then I'm younger than that now.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

It Pays to Increase your Word Power

Myself: An irredentist is a person advocating the restoration to their country of any territory formerly belonging to it.

Prodnose: Eh? Not like a dentist or even an orthodontist then?

Myself: Nope. I only learned it this morning, but I am going to start dropping it into the conversation whenever Putin comes up in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Prodnose: But nobody will know what you mean.

Myself: Precisely, that's the joy of it really.

Prodnose: An egomaniacal affectation of entirely unearned effortless superiority with no redeeming features whatsoever?

Myself: Guilty as charged.

Prodnose: Recidivist.

Myself: Eh?

Friday, March 18, 2022

The morning after St. Patrick's Day


May the standing desk rise to meet you.

May the ergonomic pillow be at your back.

May the fluorescent office lights shine warm upon your face,

The consistent coughing from your coworker fall soft upon your ears,

And until you’re able to work from home on Friday,

May that guy learn to cough into a tissue or his elbow

And not the goddamn palm of his hand.

- - -

May you make an Irish goodbye from the office’s Thirsty Thursday mandatory drinks a half an hour before your boss knows you’re gone.

- - -

May your social anxiety be as fleeting as rain.

May you not get any coworkers’ names wrong.

May there be leftover pizza in the breakroom,

That keeps you full all day long,

Because in your morning rush to get out the door you forgot your lunch

And there’s no time to run out and grab something.

- - -

For each petal on the shamrock,

May it bring a wish your way—

Free donuts, few distractions, and a desk near your office crush,

For today and every day.

- - -

May some of your work clothes from 2019 still fit,

Enough for at least three days a week in the office.

And even though you wear the same black pants every day,

May ne’er a coworker notice or care.

- - -

May you never take work home with you,

Except on Wednesdays and Fridays

When you’re allowed to work from home.

- - -

May the meeting rooms you reserve always be free.

May they comfortably accommodate everyone on the team.

And when you realize that no one else from the meeting is in the office,

And you made the thirty-five-minute commute just to take it on Zoom,

May the frosted glass walls of the conference room

Muffle your banshee-like scream.

- - -

May your presence in the office be like a rainbow —

Very visible, but no one can reach you.

- - -

May you escape to the bathroom and remain

To your needy coworkers unseen.

And while you’re away,

May you remember to lock your computer,

So no one spots your updated resumé on your screen.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

St. Patrick's Day

I'll grant you that the photo on the right isn't the most artfully contrived thing you will ever see in your life. In my defence it was a snapshot I took on impulse as I left the pub last night after watching the football.

Apply your minds though to the terrifying implications of "GUINNESS & JAMESONS PROMOTIONS till 4pm" for today at the Standard. Happy hour doesn't begin at four in the afternoon, it ends.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Such are the auguries for my first St Paddy's since Ancestry DNA (passim) reclassified my "sample" as 100% Irish. It will also be a sentimental occasion as we ruefully recall that this night of nights in this venue of venues (passim) was the last time (two long years ago) that we had a proper evening out before the government locked us all up.

A further anecdote ratchets me up to (by my calculations) more than 100% Irish. My brother John, the other day, was recalling a game at the Penarth Sevens years ago in which he played alongside our cousin Mike Murphy, and the Illts beat the hitherto undefeated Cardiff so bad that the Blue and Blacks didn't even get on the scoreboard.

John mentioned in passing something I didn't know. Mike was once called up for Ireland rugby at senior level, but had to pull out due to a recurring shoulder injury. 

If he had been a bit luckier I could be dining out on that still.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Rebel Dread

Off to the British Film Institute last night to see Rebel Dread, a documentary about Don Letts that pushed all my nostalgia buttons as, indeed, did the BFI itself.

They still have wall mounted leaflet holders from which you can pick up an A4 sheet telling you what to think about the film. I am old enough to remember when these sheets were mimeographed. (A mimeograph was a duplicating machine that produced copies from a stencil, it was superseded by the photocopier before the photocopier was superseded by the laser printer.)

When I first came to London I was a graduate trainee working for Fluor in Euston, spending a lot of time as I recall with telex messages as they were considered to be legally valid documents. (Telex has since gone the way of the mimeograph.)

On my way home I would get the tube down to Waterloo and then a train back to West London. Very often, if nothing much was happening of an evening I would interrupt my journey to cool my heels a stone's throw from Waterloo at the South Bank which is why I have got so much history at the National Theatre, the BFI and the Festival Hall etc around the mid 80s.

The last time I was at the BFI to see something was a little over ten years ago. The movie was Annie Hall and I can remember the odd film scratch from the old print flashing on the screen. I imagine 35mm cinema projectors have gone the way of the telex and the mimeograph now, and it is all digital 4K.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Beware the Ides of March

I woke this morning with an opinion to share with the world, only to realise a few lines in that I had already tugged at your sleeves about it on January 2nd this year.

God knows there is more than a hint of the yellow-jowelled, thinning-haired pub bore about me at the best of times, but I am not sure I want my subconscious pointing it out over an empty stomach of a morning.

I prescribe twenty four hours of quiet reflection. See you tomorrow.

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” - Virginia Woolf

“When you quiet yourself, open your heart, and really listen, you can find enlightenment anywhere, including in the trite garbage I just rattle off the top of my head in order to sell you books.” - Deepak Chopra (attrib.) The Onion.

Monday, March 14, 2022


I have been linking the titles of these posts to whatever I addressed the nation about on the same day last year for a while now. Actually the trail goes back to 2018 and has informed me that four years ago yesterday (Icons passim) I went to see Peter Gill's The York Realist at the Donmar. I had never even met him then. I only introduced myself when I had aspirant actress nieces knocking on the doors of drama schools. That seems a long time ago. We went for a coffee after Sainsburys, at Cafe Plum yesterday. (Munster Road; how could my 100% Irish DNA resist?)

Anyway, and I hope this goes some way towards explaining the video above, Jonathan Bailey the star of season 2 of Bridgerton, Netflix's global smash, was in the York Realist though - to be honest - I don't think I would recognise him if I saw him walking down the street. Now he is a hot property it seems, and apparently not short of a bob or two, he has bought the screen rights to Peter's play. Wouldn't it be cool if the movie happened?

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Living well is the best revenge

 Yet another good Skype chat - my brothers, my mother and I - yesterday morning. Vince steered the conversation to the flats that mum and dad rented after they were married and before we moved to Rhiwbina. One was in Hamilton Street and one in Pitman Street. I record them here because although I sorta remembered I had also sorta forgotten. In one of them, friends called the Triggs lived upstairs. Mum remembers snorting with derision when daddy Trigg told her that a new band called "The Beatles" were going to be a success. "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah? You have got to be kidding!" Oops. Chalk that one up to experience.

Just around the corner from Hamilton Street, my siblings tell me, there is a place called the Purple Poppadom that won Best in Wales last year at the British Curry Awards. I must add that, and specifically its seven course  Chef’s Tasting Menu, to my back-in-the-bosom-to-do list. It joins Lab 22 (passim) and Home by James Sommerin (passim).

While we are on the subject of my Port Out, Starboard Home life, there are a couple of theatre gigs recently booked that I don't think have stained these spindrift pages to date.

"When We Dead Awaken" The Coronet Theatre & The Norwegian Ibsen Company, Tuesday week. "That sounds like a barrel of laughs," I hear you cry as you grind your teeth in envy.

Jerusalem, Apollo Theatre, June 14th. I am pleased with this one. It was sold out when I first set my hat at it, but more tickets were released last week.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

The Cretan Awakes

Nobody, surely, can dispute that I am a raging right wing nut job who thinks that life was better when the newsreels were in back and white, but the High Court judgement yesterday that the Met breached the rights of vigil organisers after Sarah Everard's murder gets two thumbs up from me. Herewith the Grauniard's coverage.

Initially, and briefly, I imagined this was criticism of the heavy handed break up of the "unofficial" vigil itself but no such luck. I remember, when it happened, being ashamed to be living in a country where the police were brutalizing women (what was the pretext, COVID?) in public in a park twenty odd minutes from my house.

It seems to me that we have sleep walked into a situation where the state arrogates* all sorts of arbitrary powers to itself without even a fig leaf of due process or appeal.

Take, for example, the fall out for Chelsea FC from the Government's sanctioning of Abramovich. The government's "special license" has set a limit of £20,000 per team per game for travel to and from matches. Where on earth has this figure come from? One can't but suspect it has simply been pulled out of the air. How is it to be challenged or justified. Government by diktat? 

I have dug up the Law Society Guidance on the UK sanctions regime, but I haven't read it yet. The Cretan needs feeding and I have to dash out of the door for my yoga class.

* an earlier version of this post said "abrogates," but I am blessed with pedants as readers. Well one in particular.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Check your Ego at the Door


As trailed (Icons Passim), we went to see Ego Ella May at Lafayette last night. I thought she would be good, but she and her band were great. So was the new-to-me venue. The video above is her engagingly modest and almost shy acceptance speech after winning the Best Jazz Act at the 2020 MOBO Awards.

Around that time you could come out of my front door in Marlborough Road, turn right, then turn right again into Park Road and carry on past Paapa's flat. Paapa being Paapa Essiedu, who we saw starring at the Old Vic at the end of January (Icons passim). After that, if you turned right onto Robinson Road you would walk past Ego's. Taking the next right into Birdhurst Rd you would pass Callum's mum and dad's house. Yep, Callum Hudson-Odoi who won the World Club Championship with Chelsea in February.  All three of them in a three or four hundred yard stretch! Block be throbbing with talent.
Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got
I'm still, I'm still Nicky from the hood
Used to have a little now I have a lot
No matter where I go I know where I came from (from the Wood)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Apocalyptic History, Mystical Awakening, and the Struggle for the Soul of the World

 I saw the son and heir for a beer and a curry last night and noticed he had two fingers strapped together.

"What happened?"

"I had to punch someone outside a night club."

"Ah, that would explain it then." I suppose he must have won as he didn't seem to be marked anywhere else.

He also told me that he is going to come back to yoga when he returns from visiting Rayburn (and new baby son) in Florida. Also, inspired by West Dean, he is going to start "working with wood," in addition to his drawing and sketching. I have always thought it healthy to have other interests outside, and in addition to, violence.

When I got in I put my feet up and turned on the TV. Nothing live being of much interest, I fired up YouTube and found a video Putin's Religious Mission, Gary Lachman had been recommended for me.

What are the deeper religious and philosophical currents informing Vladimir Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine? 

Gary Lachman is the author of the recent book 'The Return of Holy Russia: Apocalyptic History, Mystical Awakening, and the Struggle for the Soul of the World'.

In this conversation he argues that we have to understand the deep well of Russian philosophy and understand how Putin sees himself and Russia's historic mission.

How does YouTube know so much about me? Surely this tip must be related to me reading and writing about Vladimir Putin's ”On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians“ and having Lachman's The Quest For Hermes Trismegistus: From Ancient Egypt to the Modern World in my Kindle library, but I am not sure that I am entirely comfortable with Google going through my garbage, as if I was Bob Dylan, just to bring it to my attention.

Interesting fella Gary L: In a previous career, he was a founding member of Blondie and in 2006 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I was intrigued by what he had to say though as I thought it threw a lot of light on Putin's confusing religious and philosophical musings. He also confirmed a lot of what I remember about internal Russian conflict between its Slavic and Western leanings. An idea I first encountered in Franco Venturi's "Roots of Revolution" all those years ago. (I wonder where my copy went?)

Holy Russia is on Audible. Maybe I will get it with this month's credit.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Du sublime au ridicule, il n'y a qu'un pas.

The Ukrainian crisis has finally had a direct impact on my Lotus-Eater's life. Scotland's World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine, scheduled for March 24, has been postponed (and here comes one of the great understatements of our time) 'due to Russian invasion.' The other semi-final, Wales v Austria, will go ahead. If Wales and Scotland both won, Andy Tea (a Scot) and I were going to go to Cardiff on the 29th to watch the final. Deuced inconvenient I call it.

Though Rod M, as he pointedly reminded me yesterday, is still my official tutor on Russia-Ukraine relations; I am still allowed to do some background reading of my own.
Accessing the Putin article is a bit hit and miss this morning. I do hope that neither our masters nor "white-hat" hackers are disrupting it as that rather defeats the free speech ideals we are supposed to be upholding.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

my father, there on the sad height

Dad's birthday today. I can't remember off the top of my head exactly how old he would have been though I think about him every day. Poignant doesn't even begin to cover it.

Mum, at least, is very much still with us.

Update: Google Photos just pinged me with a couple of snapshots taken twelve years ago today. 

My son, my father's grandson with a Golden Boot best rugby player award and a selection of judo and athletics medals. That would have been the old man's best birthday present ever.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Disasters Emergency Committee


Twelve years ago (Icons passim) I worked with DEC on their Haiti Appeal. I thoroughly recommend them if you have got a couple of quid spare to throw the way of Ukrainian refugees.

The DEC brings together 15 leading aid charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently at times of crisis overseas. In these times of crisis, people in life-and-death situations need our help and our mission is to save, protect and rebuild lives through effective humanitarian response.

ActionAid, Action Against Hunger, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Concern, Age UK, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund, World Vision.

What particularly impressed me in practice was its distributed, collegiate structure which enabled resources to be directed to sectors that might be overlooked by an overreaching, overweening, blunderbuss, top-down approach. I distinctly remember Save the Children focussing on, ahem, Haitian children, Age UK concentrating on Haitian pensioners etc. and already having contacts, on the ground, with equivalent local organizations.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Creepy Old Man Has Book Filled With The Home Phone Numbers Of Everyone In Town

@theonion 😱 #creepy #wtf ♬ original sound - theonion
Yes, I really am old enough to have asked Harjinder how the phone book worked in Amritsar if everyone was called Singh. He wasn't impressed.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Get it on

 I was very surprised this morning, using the search button top left, that not one single reference to Marc Bolan has appeared on these pages before today. I mean, I even attended when a plaque honouring him was unveiled in Tooting last year. It is on the wall of the Tesco Express on Garratt Lane. Something else very exciting must have happened for me not to have recorded that red letter day in deathless prose. Also, when I lived in Mortlake, and then Putney I would often drive or walk over the bridge on which he was killed in a car crash and notice poignant tributes left on, or at the foot of, a tree.

He was on my mind because Andy Tea mentioned Rick Wakeman at the pub yesterday, spurring me to pass on a heartwarming story I heard Wakeman tell Danny Baker on the radio once.

One day in 1971 the recently married Wakeman found himself £8 short on his rent. Desperate for work, he took the tube to Tottenham Court Road and walked to Denmark Street looking for a session in a Southern Music recording studios in Tin Pan Ally, and then onto the studios of Regal Zonophone on Oxford Street, where he could always earn a couple of quid playing a demo session, but nothing was happening.

He was in a Wimpy Bar on the corner of  Oxford Street nursing his cares with a coke when  producer Tony Visconti walked in. “Rick, session tonight in Trident Studios, midnight, for Marc Bolan’s new single. He wants you to play piano.”

Wakeman asked how much. “Nine quid.” 

Later that night he went to Soho’s Trident Studios with Marc Bolan and T. Rex plus King Crimson’s Ian MacDonald on saxophone.

“All I want you to do is this,” said Bolan and he ran his hand down the piano keys in a glissando.

 “But you could do that.” 

“Do you want your nine quid or not? I could give you it, or loan it to you, but you wouldn’t take it would you? So you can earn it."

That is the story behind the sub-second piano part six seconds in the track below. If you are not moved you don't have a heart.

Friday, March 04, 2022

Emotional Weather Report

Finally, the all clear to visit mum again. It is too late for me to organise getting down there tonight or tomorrow morning. Ben flies out to Florida the next weekend, then John and Lorraine are visiting me the weekend after which puts the kibosh on that, so it looks like Saturday 26th is my best bet.

Fingers crossed this will give me a boost as well as my mother. To be honest, I have been in a rut for two years now ever since the Prime Minister ordered us to stay home in March 2020. Can't get restarted on anything. Tried to get out somewhere last night but had forgotten about the tube strike. Retreated from the chained-shut station to the Standard, drank Stella and ate crisps reading philosophy on my phone's Kindle app. Highlight of the evening: a barmaid took pity on me and gave me a McVitie's Penguin bar. 

Late night and early morning low clouds

Chance of showers into the afternoon

With variable high cloudiness

And gusty winds, gusty winds

With a chance of fog

At times around the corner of

Sunset and Alvorado

Things are tough all over

When the thunder storms start

Increasing over the southeast

And south central portions

Of my apartment, I get upset

And a line of thunderstorms was

Developing in the early morning

Ahead of a slow moving coldfront

Cold blooded

With tornado watches issued shortly

Before noon Sunday, for the areas

Including, the western region

Of my mental health

And the northern portions of my

Ability to deal rationally with my

Disconcerted precarious emotional

Situation, it's cold out there

Colder than a ticket taker's smile

At the Ivar Theatre, on a Saturday night

Flash flood watches covered the

Southern portion of my disposition

There was no severe weather well

Into the afternoon, except for a lone gust of

Wind in the bedroom

In a high pressure zone, covering the eastern

Portion of a small suburban community

With a 103 and millibar high pressure zone

And a weak pressure ridge extending from

My eyes down to my cheeks cause since

You left me baby

And put the vice grips on my mental health

Well the extended outlook for an

Indefinite period of time until you

Come back to me baby is high tonight

Low tomorrow, and precipitation is


Thursday, March 03, 2022

A moiety of that mass of moan to come.

 I hope that none of the twelve million quid the Duke of York is reportedly paying his accuser is coming from an oligarch. If so, a rethink may be in order. Could the Queen's Sovereign Grant contribute I wonder? I wrote last year (Icons passimthat it was £85.9 million in 2020-21 but has now been boosted by £220m per year. A modest 256% increase. It never ceases to amaze me how this sort of thing gets nodded through, then forgotten by everyone except me and the recipients.

While I'm in Cassandra mode, what about OneWeb? Russia holds OneWeb rocket launch hostage, issues conditional demands.

I said that the Government pumping about half a billion quid of ours into OneWeb was madness on:

Wednesday, March 02, 2022


 For all that I was pulling Rod M's leg yesterday, he really is my geopolitical go-to-guy (Icons passim).

As Russia claims it has taken over the  Ukrainian city of Kherson, he has sent me photos from his 2016 posting there.

The one on the right is of a tribute to the fathers and sons the oblast lost in 2014.

The memorial below, their helmets and dog-tags.

Almost inexpressibly moving.

Yesterday, Joe Biden fluffed a key line in his State of the Union address, saying “Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Iranian people, ” as Vice President Kamala Harris mouthed “Ukrainian” and shuffled uncomfortably in her seat behind him. Rod M would be a better leader of the free world in 2022. This is a statement of fact not a rhetorical trope.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Three Wise Guys

I am writing yesterday about a story "The Gift of the Magi" by a party named O Henry, when who do I hear from but Rod M. Now this Rod M gets it in his head that what I really mean is "The Three Wise Guys" a tale that a newspaper scribe, who goes by the moniker 'Damon Runyon,' uses to extract the folding stuff from the editors and readers of Colliers Magazine back in 1933, what with there being an ever-loving Mrs Runyon and several little Runyons in need of food and also lodgings, plus this and that, none of which comes for free in this man's town.

Now while Rod's take is nothing but great foolishness (the Magi being published in 1905), and as a rule I am likely to give anyone who questions my literary credentials the chance to reconsider as they plummet twenty or thirty stories down an empty lift shaft, it also strikes me that Rod M is Rod M.

Rod M being someone that acronyms (EU, FCO, OSCE, UN) are given to inviting to see what he can do to help in venues such as DR Congo, Afghan refugee camps, Ukraine, Mali and the Sahel; and that while I do not know exactly what he does do there it is probably not sorting out the candy floss concessions. Further, if I contradict him he is apt to think me lacking in the social graces, and that I do not want a guy who can likely field strip and clean a Kalshnikov rifle quicker than I can, to think of me as lacking thereof in any way, shape or form.

Thus I throw him out a very large thank you indeed and on Christmas Day this year, "The Three Wise Guys" being seasonal, I am willing to lay a little 6 to 5, we have the first Yule Yarn since 2016:

One cold winter afternoon I am standing at the bar in Good Time Charley’s little drum on West 49th Street, partaking of a mixture of rock candy and rye whiskey … I am feeling as if maybe I have a touch of grippe coming on, and Good Time Charley tells me that there is nothing in this world as good for a touch of grippe as rock candy and rye whiskey, as it assassinates the germs at once ..........
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