Saturday, April 30, 2022

Sometimes it Snows in April

Last day of April. This just popped into my head. It's also what popped into my fingers on 21st April 2016 when I sat down at the keyboard after Prince passed.

As an aside or spinoff to something else we were talking about on WhatsApp, Mia posted a video of an informal singing assessment of hers at Central the other day.  I don't think I have ever heard her vocals before. She's got a proper set of pipes. Natural pitch and clear intonation aren't given to everyone.

I have written a solo piano 'comping arrangement for someone to sing "Love is a Losing Game" against, so I've asked her if we can run through it together next time we are in each other's company and there is also a keyboard in range. I would like to see how it works in practice. When I play it on my own I think I perform too much of the melody because there isn't a vocalist. (Subtext: In my opinion Amy Winehouse was an extraordinary song writer, but Mark (tin and cloth ears) Ronson was a disaster as a producer and arranger.)

John, Mia's dad, has jumped aboard now on guitar. "Sometimes it Snows in April" is a great piano, guitar, vocals template. That said we have already started bickering about my, ahem, "expanded harmonic palette."

Me (definitively): C major eleven.
John (unconvinced): Sometimes it is just C.
Me: F minor six with a flat fifth.
John: Which is different from an F diminished chord how exactly?

Etcetera, etcetera  ......

Friday, April 29, 2022

PG Tips

When Simon Curtis, the director of Downton Abbey: A New Era which opens today, hailed PG from the other side of the street coupla weeks ago came over for a chat (passim), I had no idea the movie was such a big deal.

Mr & Mrs Curtis
Never having seen an episode, I was somewhat bemused to see red-carpet pictures of the stars at the premiere all over the tabloids a few days ago.

PG's only a couple of years younger than mum so I often can't help but compare them; spinning strategies from what works for him to help with her alertness. Peter's chance encounter with SC, plus lunch with a couple of drama students that day did him the power of good. He insisted on a cab to the Riverside but we walked back "because it was a nice day." How I wonder can we put ma back in touch with old friends?

I've also realised I missed a PG angle or two when I wrote about Diary of a Somebody yesterday. His wikipedia page says he gets several mentions in the diaries of Joe Orton, so I guess he could well have appeared as a character in the play. Kenneth Cranham did and I can remember him phoning one day last year when I was visiting Hammersmith. Also, Orton's letters to PG from around that time are in the British Library (herewith). PG having directed Orton’s The Ruffian on the Stair in 1966 and Crimes of Passion in 1967, at the Royal Court.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Reactionary Snowflake

 I went to see Diary of a Somebody at the Seven Dials Playhouse yesterday and I didn't like it. It is only the second production in a new venue. I liked the theatre and the bar.

A five star review in the Grauniard, and the rest of the run - admittedly only to Saturday - sold out.

This play, pieced together by John Lahr from Orton’s journal as well as from correspondence and interviews, has often been overshadowed by the diaries themselves and by Stephen Frears’ 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears, adapted by Alan Bennett from Lahr’s biography of the same name.

I've seen the film and read the biography, but don't recall an allergic reaction. What went wrong?

There is a trigger warning on the wall by the box office.

Verbatim scenes from the diaries contain attitudes held in the 60s by Joe Orton and many contemporaries. They are retained for historical authenticity. They do not represent current attitudes of either the theatre or producers and some scenes may be upsetting.

If casual cruelty delivered with an insincere affectation of  cavalier flourish was a thing in the 60s, I think we might be on to something. I am now a generation snowflake shrinking violet who may well need an usher to come and hold his hand  for comfort if anything disturbing happens on stage. The type of milquetoast to be frank (though I shudder at frankness) for whom trigger warnings were invented.

I went to the loo in the interval.  The signs on the doors to both rooms labelled them as gender-inclusive, gender-neutral, mixed-sex, all-gender or summat. I can't remember the exact phrase. I took a deep breath and eeny, meeny, miny, moe'd. Behind the door on the right were two urinals, a cubicle and a couple of sinks. It was just the friggin' Gents with a different sign on the door. I was outraged. What we had was a facility that could process men, maybe, four times as quickly as women promoted as somehow inclusive and anti-discriminatory. 

It makes my blood boil. Reactionary snowflake that I am.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Scorpion and the Frog

 PG, the Butlers and I went for a lunchtime pizza at Pappa Ciccia, just over Putney Bridge in Fulham Palace Road the other Saturday. I was supposed to be calling on him in Hammersmith on my way back to Cardiff, and they had been doing something on the river that morning.

As we were sitting around the table, I noticed a big yellow egg of a bruise under the cap sleeve of Mat's t-shirt. 

"How did you get that?"

"Tom and I were playing 'Punch 4 Punch.'"

Tom is his son; a boy in his early teens. 'Serves you right for sending him to Karate as soon as he was weaned and out of nappies,' I thought. My sleeve? I was laughing up it.

Back in Cardiff this weekend, in the front room of mum and dad's empty house, I had a flashback. Ben did muay Thai, not Karate from a young age.

Here he is in an exhibition from 2008 with his Kru (teacher) Johnny Boon. Notice that Johnny has a pad on his right arm.  The next time we went back to Cardiff I "took the knee" as Boony does in the picture and invited Ben to demonstrate the technique to his grandparents. I had no pad. He duly obliged, leapt onto my right thigh and delivered the Sok Tong (downward elbow chop) to the crown of my head. Sufficient to say that in the UFC this type of blow, referred to as the ’12 to 6′ elbow because of the straight downward motion - as it would be on a clock face - is not allowed as it is considered too dangerous. Never mind Mat's bruise, I was actually knocked out for several seconds. When I came round, mum and dad were praising and hugging Ben and I knew my work was done.

Be careful what you wish for

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Are you ready to drink from the firehose?

 Wordle 311 3/6




I woke a little early this morning, so I knocked off the daily Wordle on my phone. At 6am Radio 4's Today Programme started automatically on the bedside Echo Show and I learned that Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has reached a deal to buy Twitter for $44bn. As I went through my morning ablutions Alexa read me night 525 of the One Thousand and One Nights on the Echo Show in the bedroom which I could hear from the bathroom. (I have the Arabian Nights on Kindle.) I came downstairs and wrote the story up on the WhatsApp group we are using to record our progress.

I may kick off the robot vacuum cleaner before I drive to work and will almost certainly listen to a chapter of Bruce Springsteen reading his autobiography on Audible during the 'Born to Crawl' journey.

Apart from cleaning my teeth, everything I have done since opening my eyes has been internet enabled or mediated in some way, and if the Oral-B Genius Electric Toothbrush with Artifical Intelligence and App Connected Handle is anything to go by, it can't be too long before my oral hygiene routine is subsumed by the digital tsunami as well. Even the news MUSK BUYS TWITTER, was about the internet!

By way of contrast, when we first got an always on ISDN connection for the office it was such an unusual request that the supplier sent a salesman along to spend a couple of hours talking us through the options, features and requirements.

"The Internet gave us access to everything; but it also gave everything access to us."

Monday, April 25, 2022

Helpless not Hopeless or Hapless

 I drove to Cardiff on Friday night and visited my mother on Saturday morning. It is the first time I have been able to see her in the flesh in just over four months. This is easy to gauge because, indelibly, the last time I saw her was the day of my aunt, her sister's funeral in the run up to Christmas on the 21st of December last year. Not that mum could could get lock-down parole to attend it. I watched the live stream of the requiem with her in a room in the home. COVID, and in particular Wales' super strict regulations; then the outbreak of another different infection that hit 11 people on her floor intervened for the next sixteen or so weeks. As you might imagine, I am not minded to cut Boris any slack over Partygate.

I stayed in mum and dad's now empty house over the weekend. As I was walking down the road from it to meet my brother John and his girls for lunch, my other brother Vince drove by and stopped. He was coming over to say hello but gave me a lift into town instead. On the way he told me that, during a sentimental rummage in the house, he had come across a draft letter my father had written me, but never sent, when I left home for university at eighteen. (It is relevant that I don't think he ever actually sent me a letter.) "It's in the third drawer down on the left in the desk" I was told. If Vince had caught me before I went out, I imagine we would have gone up and got it straight away, but we weren't in the house, we were in his car.

When I got back, I just couldn't bring myself to open the drawer and look at it. I will do one day, but just for the time being, the bittersweet prospect is overwhelming. “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”

I was up for the poignantly practical though. Putting new batteries in the smoke alarm and clock, freeing a seized tap in the bathroom etc. all the while muttering under my breath complaining - hypocritically and enjoyably - that I, rather than my siblings, was the one who had to do it.

But dad's letter, dad's letter; we still have an appointment, it is just one of the many, many that the pandemic has delayed.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Android Auto

Regular readers will not need any convincing that I am as stupid as a goose. After calling on Mum yesterday I met up with John and his girls. We were all set on a sociable lunch, but fate played the straight man. They were in, and had long been in, the EE shop in Cardiff's Queen Street attempting to get new and "more better" iPhones. It just went on and on. They had to upgrade iOS on their "legacy" phones in order to sync their existing data with the new models.

Estimated time to completion: 6 hours, God give me strength.

Any roads, about 90 minutes in I eventually realized that if I needed a USB A male to USB C male connector with a short cable (passim), it wasn't beyond the bounds of possibility I could get one in a mobile phone shop. I struck like a cobra and went home with one.

Thus my Google Pixel 4a phone can now be plugged in to my Ford Focus's USB port. This seems to kick off something called Android Auto. A subset of the phone's Android apps appear on the car's central screen. Most crucially Audible is among them. Somehow merely by invoking the Springsteen biography from it I have downloaded files to the phone and will be able to listen to him reading his book as I am driving back to London from Wales.

Elaborations and extrapolations will no doubt occur to me in the future as I get my head around it, but this is enough with which to be getting on.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Ukrainian Night

It is no secret (passim) that I am very far from thinking that Ukraine's Maidan revolution in 2014 was necessarily a good thing. It seems to me that it very likely put the slow-burning match to the powder keg that finally went off two months ago.  That said, if there is anyone who can point me in a different direction, it is probably be Timothy Snyder, so this month's Audible credit has gone on The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution as recommended my him.
A vivid and intimate account of the Ukrainian Revolution, the rare moment when the political became the existential

What is worth dying for? While the world watched the uprising on the Maidan as an episode in geopolitics, those in Ukraine during the extraordinary winter of 2013-14 lived the revolution as an existential transformation: the blurring of night and day, the loss of a sense of time, the sudden disappearance of fear, the imperative to make choices.

In this lyrical and intimate book, Marci Shore evokes the human face of the Ukrainian Revolution. Grounded in the true stories of activists and soldiers, parents, and children, Shore's book blends a narrative of suspenseful choices with a historian's reflections on what revolution is and what it means. She gently sets her portraits of individual revolutionaries against the past as they understand it—and the future as they hope to make it. In so doing, she provides a lesson about human solidarity in a world, our world, where the boundary between reality and fiction is ever more effaced.
I still have finished last month's Audible book, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, with eight of its eighteen hours left to go. It is great stuff though and I have just finished chapter 40.

I had hoped to make a bit more of a dent in it driving down from London to Cardiff last night, but recently having swapped both car and phone I didn't have the right connector.

What I need is a USB A male to USB C male connector with a short cable

Prodnose: That sounds like a cue for a song!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Mencius Moldbug

 Aleksandr Dugin (passim) came up in the latest edition of Alastair Campbell and Rory Setwart's podcast The Rest is Politics as "the mysterious ideologue that some believe is the brains behind Putin." Perhaps he is becoming more than just a fringe interest for policy wonks such as myself?

In other political developments I saw Siobhan, our MP, in the Co-op when it opened at seven o'clock this morning. She was buying the papers. Also I have got £10 on Marine Le Pen to win the French Presidential election. (Note, this doesn't mean I think she should win.) I was talking to Lee about it at half time in the Chelsea Arsenal game. Like all Reilly s he has a betting app on his phone. He checked and told me she was eight to one. A tenner passed hands and he placed the wager  on my behalf.

Further, I was reading What Peter Thiel, J.D. Vance, and Others Are Learning From Curtis Yarvin and the New Right in Vanity Fair. Curtis Yarvin (also known by the pen name Mencius Moldbug, God help us) is yet another swivel-eyed loon; not so much Dugin inspired as Duginesque. I will be treating any future interventions in public life from billionaire Peter Thiel with a great deal of suspicion here on in.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Upcoming Wales Matches


  • Wednesday 1st June UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE away to Poland
  • Sunday 5th June WORLD CUP QUALIFYING - EUROPEAN PATH B home to Scotland or Ukraine
  • Wednesday 8th June UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE home to Netherlands 
  • Saturday 11th June UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE home to Belgium
  • Tuesday 14th June UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE away to Netherlands

This is ridiculous. How can we play five games in thirteen days, including the World Cup final qualifier which is potentially our biggest match since the days of John Charles? (Belgium away and the Dutch at home in September.)

Rugby South African Tour

  • Saturday 2nd July
  • Saturday 9th July
  • Saturday 16th July

Autumn Internationals: all in Cardiff

  • Saturday 5th November New Zealand
  • Saturday 12 November Argentina 
  • Saturday 19th November Georgia
  • Saturday 26 November Australia
Maybe the Aussies for my trip to Cardiff?

2023 Six Nations

Round 1
  • Wales v Ireland - 2.15pm, Saturday, February 4
  • England v Scotland - 4.45pm, Saturday, February 4
  • Italy v France - 3pm, Sunday, February 5
Round 2
  • Ireland v France - 2.15pm, Saturday, February 11
  • Scotland v Wales - 4.45pm, Saturday, February 11
  • England v Italy - 3pm, Sunday, February 12
Round 3
  • Italy v Ireland - 2.15pm, Saturday, February 25
  • Wales v England - 4.45pm, Saturday, February 25
  • France v Scotland - 3pm, Sunday, February 26
Round 4
  • Italy v Wales - 2.15pm, Saturday, March 11
  • England v France - 4.45pm, Saturday, March 11
  • Scotland v Ireland - 3pm, Sunday, March 12
Round 5
  • Scotland v Italy - 12.30pm, Saturday, March 18
  • France v Wales - 2.45pm, Saturday, March 18
  • Ireland v England - 5pm, Saturday, March 18
March 11th is when we will be in Italy then if I can manage to pull off my first away trip to Rome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Old Ruts 'Head to Heads'

I still get the Old Ruts Newsletter. Yesterday's (here) talks about the 2022 Annual Dinner. Some wonderful facts were delivered at this bun-fight it seems.

Some old rugby records were referenced from a rugby record book compiled by Horace Crabtree 34th President 1964 and 1st XV Captain in 1951 in which he has listed all the clubs we have played up until the 1990s – there were a few important results to note. Our record against Harlequins 1st XV (who we beat at 7s at Twickenham in 1955) is Played 12 Won 9 Lost 3, Wasps P 9 W 6 L 3, Rosslyn Park P 7 W 4 D 1 L 2 and finally Saracens 1st XV is Played 15 W7 L 8. 

That's right, Historically Old Rutlishians have won more head to head clashes than they have lost against Harlequins, Wasps and Rosslyn Park. 

Only Saracens edge them out having won 8 of the 15 clashes to the Ruts 7. That does remind me though that Ben, by way of unconscious revenge, scored two tries on the way to beating the Sarries at the Worthing 7s in 2016 (video here).

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Queen’s jubilee book list

The Big Jubilee Read consists of ten books for each of the seven decades of the Queen’s reign. Off the top of my head I only appear to have ten of their scalps. I was hoping for more. If the real score should be higher, it can't be a good sign if I read any of them, only subsequently to have forgotten.


  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard – Amos Tutuola (1952, Nigeria)
  • The Hills Were Joyful Together – Roger Mais (1953, Jamaica)
  • In the Castle of My Skin – George Lamming (1953, Barbados)
  • My Bones and My Flute – Edgar Mittelholzer (1955, Guyana)
  • The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon (1956, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • The Guide – RK Narayan (1958, India)
  • To Sir, With Love – ER Braithwaite (1959, Guyana)
  • One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard (1961, Wales)
  • A House for Mr Biswas – VS Naipaul (1961, Trinidad and Tobago/England
  • Sunlight on a Broken Column – Attia Hosain (1961, India)


  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (1962, England)
  • The Interrogation – JMG Le Clézio (1963, France/Mauritius)
  • The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark (1963, Scotland)
  • Arrow of God – Chinua Achebe (1964, Nigeria)
  • Death of a Naturalist – Seamus Heaney (1966, Northern Ireland)
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1966, Dominica/Wales)
  • A Grain of Wheat – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1967, Kenya)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay (1967, Australia)
  • The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born – Ayi Kwei Armah (1968, Ghana)
  • When Rain Clouds Gather – Bessie Head (1968, Botswana/South Africa)


  • The Nowhere Man – Kamala Markandaya (1972, India)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carré (1974, England)
  • The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough (1977, Australia)
  • The Crow Eaters – Bapsi Sidhwa (1978, Pakistan)
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch (1978, England)
  • Who Do You think You Are? – Alice Munro (1978, Canada)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (1979, England)
  • Tsotsi – Athol Fugard (1980, South Africa)
  • Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (1980, India)
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (1981, England/India)


  • Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally (1982, Australia)
  • Beka Lamb – Zee Edgell (1982, Belize)
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme (1984, New Zealand)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985, Canada)
  • Summer Lightning – Olive Senior (1986, Jamaica)
  • The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera (1987, New Zealand)
  • The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, England)
  • Omeros – Derek Walcott (1990, Saint Lucia)
  • The Adoption Papers – Jackie Kay (1991, Scotland)
  • Cloudstreet – Tim Winton (1991, Australia)


  • The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje (1992, Canada/Sri Lanka)
  • The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields (1993, Canada)
  • Paradise – Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994, Tanzania/England)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995, India/Canada)
  • Salt – Earl Lovelace (1996, Trinidad and Tobago)
  • The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (1997, India)
  • The Blue Bedspread – Raj Kamal Jha (1999, India)
  • Disgrace – JM Coetzee (1999, South Africa/Australia)
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000, England)
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001, Canada)


  • Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004, England)
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville (2005, Australia)
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005, Australia)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006, Nigeria)
  • A Golden Age – Tahmima Anam (2007, Bangladesh)
  • The Boat – Nam Le (2008, Australia)
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (2009, England)
  • The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (2009, Jamaica)
  • The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (2010, Sierra Leone/Scotland)
  • Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilaka (2010, Sri Lanka)


  • Our Lady of the Nile – Scholastique Mukasonga (2012, Rwanda)
  • The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton (2013, New Zealand)
  • Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue (2016, Cameroon)
  • The Bone Readers – Jacob Ross (2016, Grenada)
  • How We Disappeared – Jing-Jing Lee (2019, Singapore)
  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo (2019, England)
  • The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo (2019, Malaysia)
  • Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020, Scotland)
  • A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasam (2021, Sri Lanka)
  • The Promise – Damon Galgut (2021, South Africa)
I have never even heard of One Moonlit Night by  Caradog Prichard (1961, Wales). One for the wish list I think.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Cultural Hegemony

Antonio Gramsci has been on my mind since I have been 1% Sardinian (passim). Actually it was Steve B who reminded me that Gramsci was born on the island but I am happy to take the credit.

Gramsci's theory of cultural hegemony is a useful tool for helping us to understand Russia I think.

The war in Ukraine is presented to us as if Vladimir Putin was Ernst Stavro Blofeld; a solitary mastermind issuing incontrovertible orders as he strokes his white, blue-eyed Persian cat. Not good enough.


Cultural hegemony refers to domination or rule maintained through ideological or cultural means. It is usually achieved through social institutions, which allow those in power to strongly influence the values, norms, ideas, expectations, worldview, and behavior of the rest of society.

Cultural hegemony functions by framing the worldview of the ruling class, and the social and economic structures that embody it, as just, legitimate, and designed for the benefit of all, even though these structures may only benefit the ruling class. 

Consider, for example, Aleksandr Dugin (passim) and his unholy marriage of Russian irredentism and a Slavic manifest destiny. Or the Russian word NAROD that Rod M gave me for what I considered a word missing in English; a sort of triangulation of people, nation, and folk.  Orwell's Newspeak is not far away as we embed the notion of former Soviet states as the "near abroad" (Russian: ближнее зарубежье) in the language as Russia's legitimate sphere of influence.

Finally, at least for this morning, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. The ongoing war for “Holy Russia,” he has informed us has “metaphysical significance,” and the conquest of Ukraine a matter of is a matter of "eternal salvation." Marx and Engels saw religion as a conservative force which prevented social change by creating false consciousness. Putin agrees but thinks that is a good thing.
As ever I go back to my dear old Dad. "I never thought I would see that in my lifetime," he once said to me when a substitute made the sign of the cross as he came on for Russia in a football game.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Same time next week?

I was due to go back to Wales for Easter yesterday, but I am still in London. Mum, eleven people on her floor, and a couple of staff are sick and she had a fall on Friday night. If I had driven down, a visit couldn't be guaranteed so I have put it back a week. That said John did manage to get in and see her in the afternoon.

I also missed my usual 10:30 a.m. Skype call with her. It was booked and confirmed but she didn't come online. I don't resent it, I understand that the staff must have been very busy, but is the first time I have missed this call since we started them.

How long has it been? Let's see. The first reference to the calls on these spindrift pages is on Sunday April 5th 2020 (passim) talking about a call the day before, and the first record of Ty Enfys Care Home in my Skype records is April 4th as well; pretty much proving that was the inaugural call.

Over two years before I missed one. Not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

bad father all the way to the max

Rayburn, with whom I am in regular contact via WhatsApp even though he lives in Florida now, sent me a YouTube Shorts version of the video above yesterday. Synapses fired and neurons were linked.

When Ben was little I passed on what my father had told me about punching to help in his fights with Ray. When I told John my brother that, he told me that he had given the same boxing lessons to his daughters. It made me chuckle and I have since quietly confirmed with one of the girls that it is true. The anecdote, and particularly laughing about Jazz needing punch up lessons , is now and forever associated with this Rick and Morty scene in my head.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Something in the Air

A PG premiere is coming down the pipe for the Jermyn Street Theatre in October (

The invaluable WBI time machine (passim) has reminded me that it was originally scheduled for the same month two years ago, before Covid planted a limpet mine on it. No news it seems on his new version of Chekhov's Three Sisters which was due to come kicking and screaming into the world at the same time.

Any road, he is still due to be co-directing Something in the Air with Alice Hamilton* which considering that lately it takes ordnance that would be better employed in Ukraine even to prise him out of his flat, can only be a good thing.

*Alice Hamilton co-founded the "Up in Arms" theatre company with Barney Norris who wrote To Bodies Gone: The Theatre of Peter Gill. I love it when a plan comes together.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

1% Sardinian

An evening at the wonderfully eclectic and invigorating Tooting Market last night. When Donna turned up she told me that Ancestry DNA have revised their ethnicity estimates again. Hmmmmm. Last time (passim) I went to 100% Irish up from 98. This time I have dropped down to 99% Irish and 1% .... Sardinian! Who saw that one coming? I'm going to embrace it though (cookbook on right), and we can all enjoy the latest version of my fluid identity together at

Next time you are in Tooting Market, if you pass a hip Irish/Welsh/Sardinian fusion-food stall, pop over and say hello. It will be me behind the jump. "Una spina? Sláinte! Tidy."

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Magnitsky Act

I have been trying to get my head lately around the extraordinary regime (exacerbated by the fallout from Russia's assault on Ukraine) in which people are sanctioned; their assets frozen, transactions with UK individuals and businesses prohibited, and travel banned. Roman Abramovich being perhaps the most high profile target that tabloid readers such as myself would recognize.

It seems astonishing to me that such draconian measures can be imposed without any recourse to appeal or duty of detailed exposition. And I worry that a dangerous precedent has been set; the genie is out of the bottle and that in future the government will be able to hang anyone out to dry on the flimsiest of pretexts.

As far as I can tell the starting pistol for this lamentable assault on jurisprudence was 2012's Magnitsky Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012. 

In 2009, Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after investigating a $230 million fraud involving Russian tax officials. Magnitsky was accused of committing the fraud himself by Russian officials and detained. While in prison, Magnitsky developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis and was not given medical treatment for months. After almost a year of imprisonment, he was beaten to death while in custody.

Magnitsky's friend Bill Browder, a prominent American-born businessman working extensively in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, publicized the case and lobbied American officials to pass legislation sanctioning Russian individuals involved in corruption. Browder brought the case to Senators Benjamin Cardin and John McCain, who proceeded to propose legislation.

My and our hearts go out to the Magnitskys, but hard cases make bad law: viz The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

'Nuff said. "This one will run and run."

Monday, April 11, 2022

Degrees of separation

I finally managed to introduce my niece (Central School of Speech and Drama Year 2) to all round theatre legend PG yesterday.  She, he, I and her flat and class mate met for a leisurely lunch at Sam's.

I collected PG from his place, and as we were walking down Crisp Street to meet the girls, someone hailed him from outside Cafe Plum on the other side of the road, and crossed to talk to us. 

It was Simon Curtis. Apparently PG gave him his start in the business as a sort of dogsbody when he turned up at Riverside as a star struck boy looking for Julie Covington's autograph. Now he is married to Elizabeth McGovern and has directed Downton Abbey: A New Era, a movie that is due out at the end of the month. Boy done good.

When he and PG had finished their hellos I told him how much I had enjoyed his old lady's performance in Ava: The Secret Conversations, also throwing in the anecdote about me, mum and dad meeting Ava Gardner in the park when we were up in London for my Imperial College interview all those years ago; exactly the period in which the play is set.

Looking at Curtis's Wikipedia page, I can see that he personally approached and persuaded Harvey Weinstein to finance his 2011 film  My Week with Marilyn.

To think that I could introduce Mia to someone who, in turn could introduce her to Harvey Weinstein. (I hope that neither she nor my brother John, her father, read this or I will never be allowed to return to the family home again.)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Well worth a read or a listen

War and Peace: Epilogue 2 is well worth checking out in these crazy days. 

The narrator reflects on power, the collective will of the people transferred to one ruler, as the  motor that drives history forward, but rejects it as a ludicrously simplistic and jejune affectation of insight into our tangled trajectory.

Goodbye baby and amen: Putin, Zelenskyy, Biden ........ Johnson etc. etc.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

How we live now

What can I tell you? It made me laugh.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Hey Hey, Rise Up!

Pink Floyd re-form to support Ukraine
Most observers assumed Pink Floyd were long defunct ....
The invasion of Ukraine changed Gilmour’s mind. “I hate it when people say things like ‘As a parent, I …’, but the practicalities of having an extended Ukrainian family is part of this. My grandchildren are half-Ukrainian, my daughter-in-law Janina is Ukrainian – her grandmother was in Kharkiv until three weeks ago. She’s very old, disabled, in a wheelchair and has a carer, and Janina and her family managed to get her all the way across Ukraine to the Polish border and now they’ve managed to get her to Sweden, literally last week.”
After “finding the chords for what Andriy was singing and writing another section that I could be” – Gilmour rolls his eyes – “the rock god guitar player on”, he hastily convened a recording session last week with Mason, Pink Floyd’s longstanding bassist Guy Pratt, and musician, producer and composer Nitin Sawhney on keyboards, layering their music with Khlyvnyuk’s sampled.
The cause and the sentiment are obviously good and sincere, but what really caught my eye is that Guy Pratt  (Ollie's cousin Icons passim) is on it.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Poor Boys? You poor boy

When I arrived outside the Druid's Head in Kingston last night - on my way to catch up inside with old Whitton/skiing friends who I probably haven't seen since 2019 what with COVD 'n all - I noticed I sign for a place called Poor Boys that was just down an alleyway off the Marketplace. From Breakfast and Brennan's to dinner at Dukey Chase's I am all over N'Awlins food so I was intrigued, and when Hugh suggested after a few beers that we ate there he was pushing on an open door.

Very disappointed though. The food was served up in boxes in bags at the table as it it was a take-away delivery, and we had to ask them for cutlery, plates and napkins. As for the drinks, the glass of red wine I asked for arrived in a can. You can see what Hugh got served up on the right. All a bit infra dig when you are paying top dollar.

I promise you I know what eating in New Orleans is like all the way up from a Ma & Pa shack to the fine dining legends. And it ain't like that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Cultural Vandalism: The Great Sex Experiment


 Nadine Dorries presses ahead with plan to privatise Channel 4

Ministers hope to raise £1bn from sell-off ending broadcaster’s 40 years in public ownership....

The shadow culture secretary, Lucy Powell, described the move as “cultural vandalism”. She said: “Selling off Channel 4, which doesn’t cost the tax-payer a penny anyway, to what is likely to be a foreign company, is cultural vandalism......

A Channel 4 spokesperson said the government’s announcement on Monday had been “made without formally recognising the significant public interest concerns which have been raised” during the consultation process.

Channel 4 Website

Do you fancy taking part in 'Open House:  The Great Sex Experiment'? 

Are you part of an adventurous couple wh​o want to explore opening up?

Or would you like to be one of the retreat's single residents? 

In this bold concept, committed couples come to a luxury retreat to test whether opening up their relationships and having sex with other people will strengthen their bond... and the show's producers Firecracker Films are looking for participants to take part in any potential future series.


Sometimes comment is superfluous. As I write all these links are genuinely up and running.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Iryna Kostenko; only son Oleksii, shot dead by Russian soldiers age 27 on 10 March.

I was in primary school (Icons passim) at the same time as the narrator and reporter in the report above. It shouldn't, but it does make the tragedy resonate more with me. Human nature I guess. Similar to the way Rod M talking about his time in the Donbas can make me feel more connected with Ukraine.

“The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” 

Monday, April 04, 2022

Night 502

 I'm still working (Icons passim) through the Arabian Nights at a rate of one a day. I missed yesterday though, what with a late night on Saturday then catering for, and getting along to, our Boat Race party at Hammersmith.

Back on the bike this morning:

Night 502: The surviving mamluks go off to explore the island while Jansah waits with the boat. When they report finding a magnificent marble fortress he comes to see if for himself. They eat from the orchard in its grounds, then Jansah sits on the throne in the hall and weeps feeling sorry for himself.

A group of apes appear. It is their fortress and their island, but they treat their visitors as honoured guests.

Janshah then, using sign language, asks the leaders of the apes to tell him about themselves and the builder of the fortress. In the same language they reply: ‘Know that this place belonged to our master, Solomon, son of David, on both of whom be peace, who used to come here on pleasure once a year and then leave us.’

... which would seem to mean that, if there really are 1,001 Nights I am over half way there.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Late on parade today

Overslept after over singing.

Saturday, April 02, 2022

But I don't know Vanessa Redgrave.......

"One a month" at the theatre is sorted for April. Diary of a Somebody at the Seven Dials Playhouse on the 27th. Not necessarily what I would have picked out of a line up myself, but five stars in the Guardian, someone else doing the booking leg-work, and a look at a venue that will be new to me, ticks more than enough boxes. Diary of a Somebody being about Joe Orton, let's just digest that his letters to PG are in the British Library (my italics).

What else now I'm on my feet? Oh yes, rave reviews for  the opening night of To Kill a Mockingbird this week - I'm going in June - which sorta bemused me because John and Lorraine plus Ollie and Liz Penney have seen it already. I've been reading reviews of things I've already seen a lot this year. Maybe they don't make much of a deal of official openings when you are booking on the websites.

Finally, my brother got tickets to Emilia Clarke in The Seagull at the Pinter (me and him) for July as my birthday present and it turns out that our cousin Ria and her other half are also going to the same performance. It is sounding more and more like a surprise party for me with Daenerys Targaryen jumping out of a gigantic cake.

Keep this frequency clear.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Ben is back from visiting Ray and family in Florida. Plenty of night fishing by the look the photo on the right. He is the one with the beard who looks half asleep. The one with the fins and the gills is a catfish.

We went out to dinner last night at the Istanbul Meze Mangal in the High Street. While we were eating I was telling him about RodM's work in the Ukraine. I asked if he could remember Rod staying with me years ago. "I don't know if I would recognise him," said Ben, "but I do remember the remote control helicopter he got me for Christmas or my birthday". A bribe has always been the quickest way to his heart.

"You can't rush something you want to last forever," he announced later. 

"Who are you quoting?"


Oh to be a phrase-maker. Niamh has got something he said to her tattooed on her arm apparently.  Oh dear (Icons passim).