Sunday, July 31, 2022

How The Irish Saved Civilization

I chanced upon How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe yesterday, as the author Thomas Cahill had also written something about St. Francis and the Sultan.

According to AncestryDNA I am 99% Irish and 1% Sardinian at the moment, though I have been as high as 100% Irish. (You only send them a sample once, but they seem to review the ethnic implications regularly.)

It goes straight on to the reading list, but will also stand and wait as a birthday present for the family (who share my descent) and, come to think of it for the extended Riley clan who are such a feature of life in the 'Wood.
“Like the Jews before them, the Irish enshrined literacy as their central religious act.”
Did I ever tell I was 2% Jewish back on my very first AncestryDNA evaluation?

Saturday, July 30, 2022

St Francis and the Sultan (Night 617)

I'm still working through the 1,001 Nights stories at the rage of one a day. Night 617 this morning was set in Cairo and Suez. As I was reading, it struck me that the story of St Francis and the Sultan would fit seamlessly into the collection.

Briefly, Saint Francis of Assisi attended the Fifth Crusade in 1219, and was shocked by what he saw.  He and a single companion decided to go to the Muslim leader of Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, al-Malik al-Kamil to attempt to convert him and bring peace. His companion was Illuminatus who had a knowledge of Arabic. Al-Malik al-Kamil welcomed Francis and Illuminatus. He was the nephew of Saladin and  devout. He decided to spare the life of Saint Francis. He sensed in him a true holy man who was prepared to sacrifice himself to bring peace. Francis and Illuminatus were entertained for several days then escorted back. The few gifts the gave Saint Francis can still be seen in Assisi today.

This, I promise you, would fit the didactic and unprejudiced Nights like a glove. My edition contains a map entitled Cairo in the Fourteenth Century. I wonder if that means that the saint's meeting with the Sultan was a hundred years before the Cairo stories in the collection?

Friday, July 29, 2022

How the English learned to hate Catholics

Medieval England was proudly Catholic, but after the Reformation, anti-catholic prejudice came to be a cornerstone of English and then British identity.
I stumbled on this Gresham College lecture by Alec Ryrie yesterday. Fascinating stuff; on the surface the cue ball cannons from Henry to Edward to Mary to Elizabeth, yet so much of what made the real day-to-day difference seems to arise from pragmatic decisions by faceless bureaucrats just trying to get by. The dreary and relentless march of politics.

I shall be paying more attention to Prof Ryrie going forward. Herewith "all his works... and all his empty promises" at Gresham.

I have also, courtesy of the the Prof, got The Problem Of Unbelief In Sixteenth Century: The Religion of Rabelais by Lucien Febvre on my reading list; of particular interest, Febvre's notion that - what we think of as, atheism - was impossible before Descartes.

Prodnose: Seriously? Do you expect anyone to read this guff?
Myself: Not desperately bothered, truth be told. If you are after a LOVE ISLAND DAY 53 RECAP other outlets are available.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Happy Birthday, John

So little brother, here you are "another year older and deeper in debt." I slipped you the t-shirt above as a token of my esteem,  last time you were up, so I would like to see a photo of you in it today. That way I can bond with your girls as we laugh at you.

I just realized the sentiment printed on it also applies to Rod M. I'll get him one as well (over by yer), if the International Man of Mystery every stays still long enough for me to sort out a delivery. He is shortly to be in transit I understand (details on a "need to know" basis) between Crete and Germany. The man makes Patrick Leigh Fermor look like a stay-at-home-pipe-and-slippers, rank amateur.

Prodnose: Did you get yourself a T as part of the original order?

Myself: Rude not to.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

OneWeb (Let's get together and feel alright)

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
Published 26 July 2022 
OneWeb, a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation of which the UK government is a minority shareholder, has today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Eutelsat Communications to merge the 2 companies, with the objective of creating a single, powerful global player in connectivity.

Eutelsat will add its 36-strong fleet of Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites to OneWeb’s LEO constellation, with 428 satellites already in orbit, to generate combined revenues of €1.2 billion and address an even wider range of customer requirements.

The merger is positive news for UK taxpayers: having made a $500 million investment in OneWeb 2 years ago .....
This is not positive news it is a fiasco, as I wrote at the time of the investment (passim). What I have written about it since is here.

A fact at random: OneWeb’s LEO constellation, currently has 428 satellites;  it is intended to operate as a rival for Elon Musk’s company Starlink. The Telegraph says Starlink has already deployed more than 4,400 satellites

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Sugar Baby Love

Everything has been a bit po-faced here lately, what with Margery Kempe (the Medieval mystic), Friedrich Schelling (the German Idealist philosopher) and Thomas Aquinas (specifically his first cause argument for the existence of God) getting name checked in the last three days alone. Let's lighten the tone and sit back and relax with The Rubettes.

Monday, July 25, 2022

First Cause

 When I lived in the International House of Madness in Putney all those years ago, I read Rod M's copy of Antony Flew's Introduction to Western Philosophy: Ideas and Argument from Plato to Sartre.

You'd think wouldn't you that writing one thing  here every day for all these years would mean that, in essence, everything I have ever felt or thought would be on the spindrift pages somewhere or other.

Not a bit of it.

I am still in a philostophical mood after yesterday so have an insight, my treat, from the book. Something that floored me at the time and has stayed with me ever since.

Flew says we, as moderns, can't understand St Thomas Aquinas' first cause argument for the existence of God but that this is because it seems to mean something different in a clockwork world where Isaac Newton has revealed the conservation of momentum. In such a world, the argument is all but a tautology because it implies a universe which God had to get going in the first place by giving it a kick up the backside. That is ugly reasoning because the conclusion all but contradicts its premise. Aquinas' argument when proposed was more like God as a necessary heartbeat, the maintainer of the stars in their courses.

There you go. Back on planet earth I am off the feed the Hendrie's cat now 'cause they are away. I first went round not long after six but I couldn't get in because I had left the keys behind in my house on the dining room table.

"You can't get there from here. You need to start off somewhere else." As wise people say.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Schelling on Sunday

Myself:  "I can bear it no longer; I must live once more, must let my senses have free play - these senses of which I have been well-nigh deprived by the grand transcendental theories to which they have done their utmost to convert me. But I too will now confess how my heart leaps and the hot blood rushes through my veins... I have no religion but this, that I love a well-shaped knee, a fair plump bosom, a slender waist, flowers with the sweetest odours, the full satisfaction of all my desires, the granting of all that sweet love can ask. If I am obliged to have a religion, though I can live most happily without it, then it must be the Catholic, such as it was in the olden days when priests and laity lived together ... and in the house of God itself there was daily revelry."

Prodnose: What are you on about now?

Myself: I was listening to Will Durant on German Philosophy: 1789 - 1815 (Fichte, Schelling & Hegel)..

Prodnose (interrupting): As one does ...

Myself (through gritted teeth): WHEN the passage above struck me, (more modestly) so I thought I would share it with the world.

Prodnose: "With the world"?

Myself: Sod off.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Book of Margery Kempe


Take, for instance, the case of Colonel William Erdeswick Ignatius Butler-Bowdon, a man with a dynastically inflected surname and a handsome family seat in Derbyshire to match. In 1934, Butler-Bowdon went rummaging for some ping-pong balls to enliven a dullish houseparty. From the back of a crammed cupboard, he pulled out an incomparable treasure, The Book of Margery Kempe, since described as the earliest known English autobiographical text written by a woman or, quite possibly, by anyone at all. It had been in his family for years without anyone really noticing.

Margery Kempe was a merchant’s wife in early 15th-century Norfolk who was halfway through a comfortable life when she decided to give up her smart clothes and good table and marry Christ instead. Briskly informing her husband, with whom she had 14 children, that she would rather see him beheaded than have sex with him again, she set off on a series of highly idiosyncratic pilgrimages which took her as far as Jerusalem.

Yup, The Book of Margery Kempe is this month's choice for my Audible credit. I've been interested in her for a while to be honest. Interest tweaked when Shona did the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage recently and it dawned on me that Kempe had done it all that time ago. My incipient religious mania notwithstanding, the aggressive agency of Margery Kempe's life is a wake-up call which brings me on to Femina: A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It. The quote above is from the Guardian's review of it.

I didn't really appreciate that Janina Ramirez, the author, was a serious person before, I just liked the "bull in a china shop" persona she brings presenting arts on the TV.

Chalk another one up for the patriarchy I suppose.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Why don't you tell us what you really think?

 The line up for Wimbledon Bookfest's Sunset Festival (22-26 September on Wimbledon Common) is out. Continuing the Royal theme that started in Sunrise. my eye is drawn to Sam McAlister: Scoops.

Sam McAlister, the woman who brought Prince Andrew’s infamous 2019 interview to our screens, sheds light on some of the most unforgettable journalism of our times.

‘The words he said in that Newsnight interview... may come to be the only testimony we have.’ Emily Maitlis. 

It has dawned on me this morning that Sam McAlister's Scoops is the book that is apparently being made into a film of Prince Andrew's notorious interview. It is like I live in some sort of yellow-press wonderland.

Emily Maitlis infested my life in the evening as well at the NT Live showing of Prima Facie. I was genuinely infuriated by the endless, virtue-signalling cacophony over which she supposedly presided before the curtain went up. Can't we just make our own minds up?

In the final days of rehearsals, Jodie Comer and Suzie Miller met with DSI Clair Kelland and criminal barrister Kate Parker and, with journalist Emily Maitlis chairing, discussed the play and its wider social context. 

Are we supposed to believe that girls and women are safer because these five sat around blowing smoke up each others' backsides? DSI Clair Kelland infuriated me particularly. Try her about 13 minutes in, "I think we're getting so much better." Why does she think the police are getting "so much better"? It is a complete mystery to me.

As for Maitlis, words fail me. What was her (admittedly back-firing) Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew supposed to be, apart from an establishment cover up, before it crashed and burned? And she was complicit in it. Explain to me again how anything she has ever said or done has helped any of Jeffry Epstein's lost, lonely, innocent victims in any way at all. The contempt I have for her is nothing compared to the contempt she has exhibited for them.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

There is drama in my life

Myself (lighting pipe): It is a common misconception that the first lesbian kiss on British television was between Anna Friel and Nicola Stephenson on Brookside in 1994. In fact an embrace from Myra Frances and Alison Steadman in the 1974 television play Girl, directed by Peter Gill, beat them by two decades. It was repeated on BBC4 last night but you can still catch it for another month at BBC iPlayer - Second City Firsts - Girl. (I forgot about it yesterday, so that is how I will see it as well.)

What else? We couldn't get tickets for Jodie Comer in Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre so we are off to the NT Live version at the Clapham Picturehouse tonight. Also, speaking of the Harold Pinter, The Seagull has been rebooked for the sixth of August. We missed it this month when it was cancelled due to Covid in the cast.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


Found the letter on right in St Brigid's yesterday. I got there early and came across it on the wall as I was making my way back from an unconsecrated area. I had nipped to the gents to be 100% sure that my bladder wouldn't bother me during Sean's mother's service. The letter on the right was framed on the wall.

Dad, of course, was part of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I didn't really pay it any mind when I was a boy. As far as I was concerned all it  meant was we had to hang around after the noon mass at the Cathedral while he and his gang distributed hand outs to bums. 

1. Fundamental principles of the Vincentian apostolate.

Two features sum up this apostolate: living in personal contact with those who suffer and living its spirit in common.

These are translated into practice:

by person-to-person contact;

by a personal gift of the heart;

by participation in a fraternal community of lay people animated by the same vocation.

 These essential features should operate in accordance with the needs of the modern world.

We must go very much beyond material aid and seek dialogue with those who suffer, whatever their suffering may be, without any trace of paternalism but rather in an attitude of sincerity, shared friendship and delicacy. Every charitable work animated by such a spirit can be a work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The members of St. Vincent de Paul appreciate that Christ identified Himself with the poor: Whatever you did to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." (Matt. 25,40.) 

2. Essential characteristics of the Society.

  1. It is a lay Society, composed of men and women, young and old, sick and poor.
  2. It is a Society with a spirit of youth which gives it dynamism, enthusiasm, a generous acceptance of risk, a creative imagination and above all the faculty of adaptation.
  3. It is essentially a universal Society, which is one of the signs of the love of God and of His Grace. universality should not be confused with uniformity. The Society remains one, even though its activities take many forms, which are not limited to the relief of material poverty. 
  4. The Society is Catholic, open to ecumenism in the universal Church. It should bear witness to this in its apostolate of charity. 
  5. The Society is traditionally poor. The spirit of poverty is opposed to all hoarding; administrative expenses should be reduced to a minimum. The spirit of poverty is also the spirit of sharing: sharing money, knowledge, available time and the comfort which emanates from personal contact.

3. Modern character of the Society.

  1.  The concept of the Vincentian family embraces both those sharing with the latter of the affection given to our own family.
  2. Fundamental importance is attached to the spiritual life.
  3. Women are present in the Society in either feminine or mixed Conferences. d) Presidents are elected at all levels. Each president is at the same time a member of the next higher Council.

Vincentian engagement is fully rooted in the Gospel message, permanent reference to which will, in clarifying our action through service, keep it from degenerating into activism or philanthropy.

APRIL 1948


I am staggered. Remove the religious allusions if you like, but what sentiment could be more openhearted and apposite? Once again I am retrospectively overwhelmed by the old man.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Fiona Bruce*

  • Nicholas Bowen
  • Nicholas Browne
  • Sean Burke

I am back in Cardiff for Sean's mother's funeral later today. Rather poignantly - having written about Nicholas and Jeremy Bowen earlier this week (passim) - I have remembered that when registration was called in primary school I was sandwiched between Nick and Sean.

Sean's "real" name is John, but he has always been called Sean in and outside the family so as not to be confused with his father, also John. I always thought that this was an idiosyncratic Burke thing, but no. John Ford, the director identified himself as Sean to, and was called Sean by, all his oldest and best friends for exactly the same reason. An ice-breaker anecdote for me to keep in my back pocket for this afternoon.

Sean and Rod, met in Pamplona all those years ago (passim) and Rod lives in Crete now. Between us we have been scheming to get Sean over there for a break. I could fly over there with him. I imagine he must be weary after - to all intents and purposes - living with to care for his mother for months on end. Another one for today's back-pocket for all that Crete seems to have burst into flames since we came up with the idea.

*Fiona Bruce

Alphabetical order being on my mind, I have remembered that in 2011 I got an invitation to a Media reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II  at Buckingham Palace. (Me along with Pete O'Sullivan as I remember, yet another brother of someone with whom I was in school; more circumstantial evidence of the Splott silver spoon?)

Who knows? Anyway there was a definite irony charged frisson when I picked up my ID badge from the table on which they were laid out as it was immediately above Fiona Bruce's. (She would have been between me and Sean when registration was called.)


I found this video when I was Googling to double check the date of the reception. I can remember being appalled (on their behalf!) by all the obsequious fawning the hosts had to endure with smiles on their faces. I recall thinking "I wouldn't want to be the Duchess of Cambridge," before realising that that particular phobia could probably safely be stashed in the "cross that bridge when I come to it" file.

Monday, July 18, 2022

You come in here with a skull full of mush

The Conservative Leadership Debate was in the back of my mind yesterday. Not that I did anything as drastic as watching it you understand, it is just that Helen mentioned that it was to be held at the Riverside Studios when I was picking something up in the morning for her and Mat's to take over to PG who lives around the corner and used to run it.

Anyway as I was turning it over in the compost heap that passes for my brain, it dawned on me in the USA the Republicans (and the Democrats too for that matter) don't appear to have party leaders at all. It is all to easy to conflate the President as a sort of de facto party leader but I am very far from convinced that it is the case. Who is the leader of the Republicans now for example? I have't got a clue.

OK, I get it. Over here, the leader of the party that wins the most seats in a general election is appointed Prime Minister by the Queen, and the Prime Minister is an MP and head of the government. But why should it necessarily be so? Why can't the Prime Minister sit in the Lords? Why can't, say, the Tories nominate one person Prime Minister with another as party leader? Is it the law or just a convention?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

A Personal History

It looks like Jeremy Bowen may be at Bookfest in September promoting his latest: The Making of the Modern Middle East: A Personal History. As I have said before he was in primary school with me though a few years older. I might not even remember him if it wasn't for the fact that his brother Nicholas Bowen was in my class, directly above me in alphabetical order with a name practically an anagram of mine. We were for ever getting each other's exercise books returned to each other by distracted teachers.

Amazon's blurb says the book is partly based on Jeremy's acclaimed podcast. I have found it here. Five years old but almost certainly worth a listen.

I must mention it to PG this morning. More evidence for his theory that ex-pupils of De La Salle and St Illtyd's cast a longer shadow on the world than one might imagine.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Raeburn Shield

All the home nations are in action against Southern hemisphere sides today. I will be watching the Welsh game in South Africa just after four in the pub, but I was interested to read, yesterday in the Torygraph, about something called the Raeburn Shield in relation to the All Blacks/Ireland game. After beating the All Blacks in Dunedin, you see, Ireland are now the lineal champions of men’s Test rugby union.

Devised by Dave Algie, a product marketing manager from New Zealand now based in the United Kingdom, the Raeburn Shield is held by the lineal champions of men’s Test rugby union tracing back to Scotland’s defeat of England at Raeburn Place in 1871. (The Utretcht Shield, its name being the location of the first women’s international between the Netherlands and France, is the ladies' equivalent.)

Ireland's win last week represented the 212th time that the prize – an imaginary one, granted – has changed hands in winner-stays-on style. The All Blacks side had themselves taken it from Ireland, who had snatched it from England during the Six Nations. They had, in turn, mugged Wales, who had done the same to Scotland earlier in the tournament.

Algie came up with the idea in 2008, just after his beloved New Zealand had “screwed up another World Cup”, and his research has illuminated a rich history. There have been 12 different holders, and some intriguing twists. For instance, Romania earned the gong following a 28-24 triumph against Scotland in May 1984. Samoa did so on beating Wales at the 1999 World Cup and Japan have held it twice, in 2013 after ousting Wales and then again when they overturned Ireland six years later.

Great idea. I will follow it henceforth. Website

Friday, July 15, 2022

Under my nose

I must have too much time on my hands, but I was very taken by something Douglas Murray said on the Lex Fridman podcast. I transcribe/paraphrase below. 
LF: What’s the meaning of life? Let's go there.
DM: The meaning is a hard one of course; where is the meaning is slightly easier….. 
Now there's a conservative answer to this which is quite useful and it's certainly more useful than any others, because the conservative answer is find meaning where people have found it before which is a very, very good answer. If your ancestors found meaning in a place of worship or a particular canon of work go there because it's been proven by time.
Advice I seem to have taken in instinctively; explaining everything from my genuflection in Convento Santa María de Jesús to my love of Runyon on Broadway.

Tech Files: The video embedded above is the first YouTube clip I have ever created. Start times are food and drink to me, but this has both a start and finish time. In other developments I have linked my Wordle stats to a NYT account. Also changed the battery on the car's Intelligent Access Key. It's a guy thing.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Everyone's a critic

 My fascinating post yesterday about opening the floor console storage compartment lid in the Ford Focus has reminded me, as I morph into Jeremy Clarkson before your eyes, of another motoring story.

A couple of weeks back when I got into the car of a morning, I half noticed that all the interior's lids, all its compartments etc. were open. Didn't really pay it any mind. Over the course of the day (my mills grinding slowly) it gradually occurred to me that I must have left it unlocked overnight and everything in it had been stolen. In particular refunding all the auction items I had in the boot cost me a pretty penny.

Everything had been stolen, that is, except the packaging of a BLT from a service station and my personally inscribed copy of Sean's latest novel (passim). 

I hope I am on record somewhere saying that I think the book is the best thing he has ever done, but I haven't told him the story yet because I won't be able to do it without laughing. 

If they had only taken a signed copy of his book while leaving all the watches and jewelry I would have been on the phone the same day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Forewarned is Forearmed

 Bit of a shock yesterday morning when the passive key in my pocket seemed to opt out of allowing me to start the car with the usual procedure of depressing the clutch and pressing the ignition button. I seemed to manage to get it working again by locking and unlocking the car, but it is a warning.

The car's VIN is WF05XXGCC5JT15754. It can hardly be a secret if it is visible through the windscreen on the dashboard.

It seems that the car won't start if the passive battery key has no charge.

Failure to Start

The system does not function if:

  • The passive key frequencies are jammed.
  • The passive key battery has no charge.
If you are unable to start your vehicle, do the following:

Center Console Tray Removal

  1. Open the floor console storage compartment lid.
  1. Remove the tray.

Intelligent Access Key Backup Slot

  1. Place the passive key flat on the symbol at the bottom of the floor console storage compartment.
  1. With the passive key in this position, you can use the button to switch the ignition on and start your vehicle.
So now we know. As for changing the battery:

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Duncan Jones

I remember when I was young that there was a sort of folk legend that David Bowie's son was called Zowie Bowie. He wasn't of course because David Bowie's name wasn't David Bowie it was David Jones, he just had to change his public facing tag so he wasn't confused with the singer in the Monkees. His son, reassuringly, has the bread-and-butter moniker Duncan Jones.

Dolly Parton has once - and to my delight - said "I'm not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I'm not dumb... and I also know that I'm not blonde."

My niece - who is just about closing up year two at Central and will be heading into her final year come September - told me on Saturday that she will have to change her name when she turns professional as there is already an actress called Mia Browne in the business; see IMDB. I'm a bit sad about this but "them's the breaks" as BoJo would say and has said.

Mia Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel is still free.

Monday, July 11, 2022

I'd like to meet his tailor


Dr Jordan B Peterson has finally gone off his head. I have watched all fifty nine minutes above so you so you don't have to. It starts off reasonably well with an early name check for  John Mearsheimer, a scholar who highlights the faults of the West and how they have contributed to the current Ukrainian quagmire. Mearsheimer is well worth reading and listening to for perspective even if one doesn't agree with him. In my book, there is no higher praise.

Seven minutes in Peterson announces (herewith) that "the Ukranian speakers live in the North East." God give me strength, and it goes downhill from there. It can't be a slip of the tongue (can it?) if he announces at the beginning that he is reading an article he has spent a month writing.

Nice threads though, I will say that for him.
He's the hairy handed gent who ran amok in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out Jim
Huh, I'd like to meet his tailor

Sunday, July 10, 2022

con el chum chum de las peñas

 The Seagull matinee was cancelled yesterday; two members of the cast having gone down with the dreaded Lurgi (that's Covid in pounds, shillings, and pence). 

Rob, Ria, Mia and I retreated to The Three Crowns where we were joined by Rod, who was booked to meet us there after the show but came along earlier in the circs.

Everyone got along famously and I was tremendously touched. If we classify Rob and Ria (being a couple) as a sort of communal being, none of them had met each other before. I was the only common denominator, the lightning rod, the sheet anchor..... ("Enough elaborate synonyms already!" Ed).

Also it meant that we got to see Wales beat the Springboks on their own turf for the first time evah!

As a sort of tribute to friendship, let's see if we can work out how long I have known Rod M. 

Chris and I definitely met him and John in Bilbao in the 80s. They approached us and asked if we would keep an eye on their luggage while they argued with the police. How's that for meeting cute? If he was Meg Ryan and I was Tom Hanks it would be the greatest rom-com evah!

We were all on our way to Pamplona, so we chummed around and - as I recall - met up with Sean when we got there. (This was in the days when Sean was, to all intents and purposes, Mickey Rourke in Rumble Fish but that is a story for another day.) San Fermin is in progress as I write which adds to the resonance.

Lost contact after that, but then one day, back in London, as I was crossing Putney Bridge (South to North) I met Rod and John (North to South trajectory). What with one thing and another, us all being in our early to mid twenties, I ended up living with them and the "other" Nick in the International House of Madness above the clock shop next door to the Half Moon.

I know I moved out after I started my Evening MBA in the, then, City University Business School which kicked off in February 2006, the IHOM not being suited to study and contemplation.

I know I was in Scotland for a good few months towards the end of 1985, so let's say 1984 was the year I moved in. Can it really be 1983 that we bumped into each other in Spain? I think it can.

Forty years ago next July. Gosh. I think a party is called for.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

Yihla Moja

 When Vince and I were talking with mum about Wimbledon on Thursday evening (via Skype as she is isolated with Covid) he mentioned that Cameron Norrie's mother Helen was born in Cardiff. Norrie went down in the semi final to Novak Djokovic yesterday despite battering him in the first set. Still becoming only the fourth British man to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon in the Open era is nothing to sneer at.

I dug up more about his Welsh roots from WalesOnline

His grandfather Glyn Williams, the former chief sub-editor of the Western Mail in Cardiff, was born in the city in 1928 and brought up in Adamsdown, attending St Illtyd's High School. He went on to study at Harvard Business School before becoming a reporter for newspapers in Breconshire and Montgomeryshire.

Glyn worked at the Western Mail between 1955 and 1966. While in charge of print production he became friends with fellow sub-editor Donald Woods, an anti-apartheid activist from South Africa. When Donald moved to South Africa's Daily Dispatch, Glyn accepted an invitation to join him and later became editor of the newspaper.

There is much to chew on here. My dad, five years younger than Glyn, was raised in Adamsdown and went like all his older brothers to St Illtyd's so one or more of my uncles (dad being the youngest) must have know Glyn Williams.

Donald Woods, the reason the Williams moved to South Africa is a name to conjure with as well. 


When Biko died in detention, Woods was extremely upset. Biko’s death marked a watershed in South African history and Woods, with his political vision, saw it where many did not. It was the beginning of the end for apartheid, as it concentrated even more the world spotlight on South Africa, and made certain much greater isolation, and the boycott of the country, institutions and goods. On the day of Biko’s death, Woods and Glyn Williams worked through lunchtime designing the page one for the next day with John Horlor, then managing director of Demaprint, the colour printing subsidiary. Donald suggested a big colour picture of Biko and the words "A hero of the nation" in English and Xhosa. It was a significant departure from the style of the Daily Dispatch, and is regarded as one of its more historic issues.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Once a Catholic

Andy H and I are in the habit of comparing our Wordle performances of a morning. He got it in two today; twice as good as my four.

The word to be guessed changes at midnight, so today's answer has to be embargoed until after that to stop anyone stumbling over it here. Yesterday's is fair game though as it is done and dusted.

It was agape. "In Catholicism," I told Andy (via an encrypted WhatsApp message), 'agape (/ɑːˈɡɑːpeɪ, ˈɑːɡəˌpeɪ, ˈæɡə-/; from Ancient Greek ἀγάπη (agápē)) is "the highest form of love, charity" and "the love of God for man and of man for God".'

"I thought it was staring with your mouth open 🤣," came back from him.

"Catholicism is mostly staring with your mouth open," I replied channeling my my inner Norman St John-Stevas.*

Merely an aperçu after yesterday, but I noticed that The Rest is Politics did have to post another podcast after the BoJo ructions. I have only embedded it above to test doing that from Acast where it is hosted.

*Speaking of Norman St John-Stevas and politics, it has struck me that Boris Johnson's interview with the Liaison Committee on Wednesday was one of the occasions this week when his authority noticeably ebbed away,
The Liaison Committee is made up of Select Committee Chairs. It considers the overall work of select committees, promotes effective scrutiny of Government and chooses committee reports for debates. It questions the Prime Minister about policy, usually three times a year.
In his role as Leader of the House, Stevas has been credited with the creation of the House of Commons' system of select committees, which enable backbench MPs to hold ministers to account. A very significant achievement in my humble opin.

Thursday, July 07, 2022


Let's see, I have been aware of, and impressed by, Rory Stewart,  academic, diplomat, author, former soldier, and former politician, since 2011 (passim) and read his book The Places In Between in 2014.

Thus I have been following The Rest is Politics Podcast that he does with Alastair Campbell practically since it started, for all that Campbell is something of a bête noire of mine.

The latest episode "British scandals, global recession, and Elvis" is above. I post it as a warning and a sign. It was recorded before Rishi Sunak's and Sajid Javid's resignations so in the middle of the BoJo & Co (I just made that up, good innit?) frenetic implosion it sounds like a prim postcard a discreet maiden aunt might have sent in the 1950s. Truth be told though, it is all the long term better for that. “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” 

Got my own word of the day. "The ouroboros is an ancient symbol of a snake or serpent eating its own tail, variously signifying infinity and the cycle of birth and death." Capitalize the B, switch an O for an I and we have ouroBoris; today's mot juste.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Tooting your own horn

 Ben came round last night on the way home from work to pick up some stuff he had left at mine before we set off to Seville. Stuff we had both subsequently forgotten, his journey from Sarf London to Sevilla being work>mine>cab>airport without a stop at his own gaff.

That business concluded, we headed off to The Little Taperia in Tooting High Street to raise a glass of Rioja to Andalucia over tapas (Manzanilla olives, Morcilla Scotch eggs with piquillo peppers, Salt cod fritters, Patatas bravas and - deep breath - 'Grilled asparagus, manchego, quail eggs, pine nuts, paprika oil').

A poster on the wall of La Giralda, every story of which we had climbed by foot only the week before last, amplified our duende. Encouraged, I addressed the waitress in something approximating Spanish; she was Bulgarian.

We must Little Taperia again and again. He finishes work reasonably early, so if he calls round on the way home few places are open. The 12pm – 10pm Taperia has its arms open for us between five and seven when few other establishments do (especially when you factor in all the places he and I are banned from between us).

Another thumbs up to the good people of Tooting; as we were sitting in the Taperia I heard a siren and glanced out of the window. A car had managed to let an ambulance by. I looked on with a combination of admiration and disbelief, as I realised that the tom-fool cycle lane bollards that so disrupt the A24 once you cross the railway bridge to Colliers Wood were nowhere to be seen.

We live near to St George's University Hospital. Transport for London (TfL) - aka Sadiq Khan - had the wonderful idea of imposing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on us with the aforementioned bollards and the insane invasive traffic island bus stops making it all but impossible for siren blaring ambulances on their way to collect and to return desperately ill people to A&E to overtake, for example, me as I am wandering down the road on foot to Coffee in the Wood. Ben, not untypically, nailed it with an understatement. If you are driving and there is no possibility of getting out of the way of an ambulance whose journey is more urgent than yours it is "embarrassing."

If the Wandsworth Oblast has rebelled, while the Merton Gulag continues to pledge its allegiance to this madness .............

Civil disobedience.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak

Woke up this morning to find Macy Gray all over social media and the press on both sides of the Atlantic. 
‘Just because you go change your [body] parts, doesn’t make you a woman, sorry,’ says Gray

Not all that bothered myself, but it reminded me that the track above from her debut album (what 20 years ago?) is one of my favourites ever. 


Finally caught up with the first episode of series three of The Umbrella Club last night. Absolutely bonkers but very enjoyable.

It is like we are living in a parallel universe and can't find our way back home. Exactly the plot of the show, come to think of it.

Monday, July 04, 2022

African American Conservatives

It is probably more information than you need, but Radio 4 kicks off at 5:58 every morning in my bedroom. On weekdays this is so I can ease myself into the Today Programme via Tweet of the Day. That works fine Monday through Friday, but we don't get it on the weekend so this morning I got the last two minutes of:

Profile: Clarence Thomas - Timandra Harkness tells the story of the the US Supreme Court Justice at the centre of overturning the right to abortion in America. How did he go from poverty in Georgia to highest court in the land? And why did his politics change from campaigning for black rights to anti-affirmative action conservatism?

Having been blogging about the Supreme Court lately, I listened to the whole 15 minutes yesterday, and you can do the same here for at least a year.

I was intrigued by a reference to Thomas Sowell  as an influence on his move to, what for want of a better word, we shall call the right as I am aware of Sowell from the Hoover Institution.

This in turn got me thinking of John McWhorter, who I have been reading for nigh on two decades now, starting with The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language. I didn't even realise he was African American I don't think, until he started doing a podcast with Glenn Loury.

Also Amazon Fire TV has been recommending me this movie lately.

A lot to chew on here; early days. I am very far from an opinion never mind a conclusion.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Britannia Point

Plenty of coverage in the press of this incident round the corner. 

I don't want to come over as some sort of raging conspiracy theorist, but it does seem extraordinary that someone was pointing a camera at the window at the very moment it fell.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

More RBG, Less GBH

 July 1 (Reuters)

 Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google will delete location data showing when users visit an abortion clinic, the online search giant said on Friday, following concern that a digital trail could inform law enforcement if an individual terminates a pregnancy illegally.

Though this story doesn't seem to be on the BBC News website, it was the first item on BBC Radio 4's ten minutes of News and Papers at six o'clock this morning. I know it sounds unlikely but you can listen to it here for the next 29 days. I know this whole saga of Roe v Wade is driving a stake into the heart of the USA but why should it be the first thing off the bat in our news in the UK? (I was waiting of our government whip who has resigned after groping two men in a private members club. Anyone who can read the phrase "private members' club" in that context without laughing can no longer be my friend).

More seriously I need to get my head around this American saga.

OK, here is the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization judgement that overturned Roe v Wade 1973. The trouble is it is 213 pages long.

How about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Offers Critique of Roe v. Wade During Law School Visit from the University of Chicago? Nobody as far as I know has ever accused RBG of being a right wing ideologue.

“My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change,” Ginsburg said. She would’ve preferred that abortion rights be secured more gradually, in a process that included state legislatures and the courts, she added. Ginsburg also was troubled that the focus on Roe was on a right to privacy, rather than women’s rights.

“Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?” Ginsburg said. “It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice…it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.”

Interesting. Is that why it was overturned, on the right to privacy issue?

Ginsburg talked about the case she wished would’ve been the first reproductive freedom case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Struck v. Secretary of Defense. In that case, Ginsburg represented Capt. Susan Struck, who was serving in the Air Force in Vietnam when she became pregnant. The Air Force gave her two options: terminate or leave the Air Force. Struck wanted to keep the baby and her job, and Ginsburg took her case. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but the Air Force relented and allowed Struck to keep her job, rendering the issue moot. 

“I wish that would’ve been the first case. I think the Court would’ve better understood that this is about women’s choice,” Ginsburg said.

Even more interesting. Smart cookie Ginsburg. Much to chew on here. 

Friday, July 01, 2022

Full-Court Press

 I was idly Googling the US Supreme Court last night (the justices never seem to be out of the news lately what with overturning Roe v Wade and yesterday's ruling limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants) when I came across a table in Wikipedia.

Religious makeup of the current Court
NameReligionAppt. byOn the Court since
John Roberts (Chief Justice)CatholicismG.W. Bush2005
Clarence ThomasCatholicismG.H.W. Bush1991
Samuel AlitoCatholicismG.W. Bush2006
Sonia SotomayorCatholicismObama2009
Elena KaganJudaismObama2010
Neil GorsuchAnglicanism/CatholicismTrump2017
Brett KavanaughCatholicismTrump2018
Amy Coney BarrettCatholicismTrump2020
Ketanji Brown JacksonProtestantismBiden2022
Isn't that remarkable? It is overwhelmingly Catholic. If we claim Neil Gorsuch for the left footers, it just leaves one Jew and one Protestant to make up the numbers. No WASPS at all, Ketanji Brown Jackson being an African-American woman. 

I am astonished this isn't bigger news. To put it in context there have only ever been two Catholic presidents; JFK and Joe Biden. Neither known for their piety, or devotion to canon law. To be honest I am bemused that Biden, and Nancy Pelosi for that matter, haven't been excommunicated.

"This one will run and run," Fergus Cashin - Irish Cardiff Catholic“™”.