Friday, September 30, 2022

C'mon, C'mon

Ben (born 30/9/2000) and cousin Mia (25/7/2000)
Myself: To visit planet Earth, you will have to be born as a human child. At first you'll have to learn to use your new body to move your arms and legs. You will learn to walk and run, to use your hands, to make sounds and form words. There will be so much for you to learn, and so much for you to feel; sadness, joy, disappointment and wonder. You will grow up, travel, and work. Over the years you will try to make sense of the happy, sad, full, always shifting life you're in. And when the time comes to return to your star, it may be hard to say goodbye to this strangely beautiful world.

Himself: You're crying.

Myself: No I'm not.

Himself: Yes you are. You're definitely crying. Say you're crying.

Myself: Happy birthday, Ben.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Roll the Dice

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter,
it’s the only good fight
there is.

Charles Bukowski  1920-1994/Male/American. Yesterday, this day last year, and tomorrow are all speaking to me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

C'mon C'mon: Trailer

Soundtrack Clare De Lune unless I miss my guess, though a different arrangement from Claude Debussy's piano original.

C'mon, C'mon comes free with Amazon Prime. If I watch it on Friday, himself's 22nd birthday, I will be in bits.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A Mad World, My Masters

Puttering along the High Street  this morning; a 20mph zone, God Bless you Mayor Khan! I was overtaken on the inside by an electric scooter in the cycle lane to my left behind the bollards.

This is actually insane. The bollards have long prevented us car drivers from getting out of the way of the ambulances racing to and from St George's hospital now they are penning pedestrians into narrow corridors that are half mothers with toddlers in push chairs, and half boy racers on machines with Formula E specifications moving faster than the actual traffic.

TFL: Electric Scooters

Rental electric scooters (e-scooters) are the only way to legally ride an e-scooter on public roads or in other public places within London - and even this is limited to specific boroughs. It is still illegal to use privately-owned e-scooters or other powered transporters on public roads....

We want to explore new, environmentally-friendly forms of transport that can be used to reduce road congestion in London - but we need to make sure that any alternatives are safe for both users and non-users alike.

The current rental e-scooter trial trial is helping us test the best ways to protect the public.

Rental e-scooters have specific safety features installed. For example, they are limited to a speed of 12.5mph and have lights that are always on throughout any rental.

Our current trial of rental e-scooters is expected to run to November 2022.

Yeah right, that would explain today's cognitive dissonance. Nothing against e-scooters myself, they look like they might be useful fun, but let's get some joined up thinking going on as opposed to ignored platitudinous nonsense.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sianel Pedwar Cymru

I popped out to the Royal Standard yesterday. Hardly a surprise I will grant you, but I stayed longer than I had intended because they were showing the Wales Poland game. "Wales suffer Nations League relegation after Karol Swiderski pounces for Poland." Boo! Cries of "shame."

The devil, as ever, is in the details. The pub was showing S4C's coverage in Welsh. The Standard, for all that it is in the 'Wood, is so Irish it is more like Oirish, and my Oirish DNA thrilled and trilled. What could be more Irish than an expat pub in England showing the footie in Cymraeg?

In a not unrelated development, when I heard the news on Radio 4 this morning their pronunciation of "Giorgia Meloni" sounded more like "Georgia Maloney" to me. I spent several fruitless but imaginatively rewarding minutes wondering how an Irish lady had managed to be elected as the head of the most right-wing Italian government since Mussolini. "We might disagree politically," I remember thinking, "but praise where it is due, the colleen must have something about her to be sure."

Sunday, September 25, 2022


I bought a physical book yesterday, a hardback with actual paper pages as opposed to recycled electrons in a Kindle or Audible edition. I genuinely can't remember the last time I did that, which probably explains why the contents of Browne Acres' bookshelves are looking a touch stale.

I'd gone along to the Wimbledon Bookfest Sunset Festival to see Anthony Sattin in conversation with William Dalrymple about his book Nomads. (We do the e-commerce for Bookfest so I try and get along to at least one event every time it is in session just to keep my finger on the pulse.)

I was very taken with it. Money quote:
Although theirs seems to be the shadow side of our story, the nomad story is neither less wonderful nor less significant than ours. In the second century BCE, for instance, after the Roman Republic defeated Carthage and became masters of the Mediterranean, when China flourished under the Han emperor Wu and trade inched its way along the nascent Silk Roads between the Yellow river and Europe, Xiongnu nomad power stretched from Manchuria to Kazakhstan and included parts of Siberia, Mongolia and what is now China's Xinjiang province. At the same time, Scythian nomads and their allies controlled much of the land between the Black Sea and the Altai Mountains in Kazakhstan. Put together, these nomad territories were larger and more powerful than either the Roman or Han empires. And in contrast to the familiar claim that these mobile people were primitive and isolated, we know from burials that their leaders dressed in Chinese silk robes trimmed with cheetah fur, sat on Persian carpets, used Roman glass and had a taste for Greek gold and silver jewellery. All this raises the possibility that these nomads were the masters of a linked-up trading world that stretched from the East China Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
Very much along the lines of what my reading from the Decameron to the 1,001 Nights suggests; much has been lost and we trudge around ruins with dust in our torch beams.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Never knowingly under stimulated


Petemonk and Alice discuss the upcoming new play. As far as I can tell it is a nostalgic lament for the good old days when gays were real men as opposed the the limp-wristed, lisping apologies you get today. Nostalgia catches up with all of us in the end.

Just off a call with mum who is only two years older than him and, frankly, less engaged. Something to be said, I conclude, for being a cantankerous old bugger.

We all learned from Dad, the Zeus of snarky dissent.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Hello and welcome to Jazz Club

Louis Balfour: Hello and welcome to Jazz Club. Yolanda Charles' pH Project presents its music with  intricately arranged elements that allow unprepared moments to emerge, with a nod or glance signalling accents or arrangement changes. The  interplay and rhythmic possibilities are numerous, which allows the  musicians to enjoy a highly creative experience.*
Myself: Great.
Louis BalfourYolanda  is well-known to music fans and industry professionals worldwide. In  2020, she was awarded an MBE for her services to music. Project pH  features the skills of London-based guitarist Nick Linnik, who provides a  stunning display of highly compelling soloing as the newest member of  the band. The dynamic and versatile Laurie Lowe on drums, is known for  his work as part of the Preston, Glasgow & Lowe trio as well as a  myriad of names in the UK jazz scene. Pianist Hamish Balfour brings a  wide range of experience as a composer and arranger. His training in  both classical & jazz and as a dance music producer, gives him the  perfect mix of skills for the band sound.
Myself: Great.
Louis Balfour: The voices of the band are provided by the superb soulful delivery of vocalists Paris Ruel and Adeola Shyllon.
Myself: Nice!
Oh, get over yourself! It's not like you have to come with me. Breaks down like this, dropping off a birthday card at Jonnie H's last weekend I realised it was an entire year since I went to Ronnie Scott's with Andy and Ian to see Kurt Elling featuring Charlie Hunter  (passim). I'd dropped a 21st birthday present off at the Hendries' (same day last year) on they way to the tube to get to to that you see and synapses fired along the lines of  Proust's madeleine.

I WhatsApped Andy and he replied suggesting we pick something out from the EFG London Jazz Festival in November, so SpiceJazz Soho at the Spice of Life it is on the 11th. A gig every fourteen months is hardly living in each other's pockets.

* This is genuinely what the blurb says ........... Nice!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Over Gardens Out

I'm not in truth much given to staying in and vegging out of an evening. Last night though life caught up with me so I lay on the couch watching "Do Revenge" for no other reason that it was number one on Netflix's streaming chart despite only being released on Friday.

It turns out that neon bright, over-designed high school comedies are my thing after all. Who'da thunk it? 

There may come a day when I can resist a Yankee movie in which a character called Eleanor owns an emotional support pet lizard named Olivia Colman after our national treasure Oscar winner, but that day is yet to dawn.

Further, “The Cis Heteronormative Men Championing Female-Identifying Students League” (slam dunk, you listening Megan?) reminds me of a story I have been told in confidence about a private school with a Boarding Fee of  £13,788 per term. This post will fix it in my mind without breaking Chatham House rules.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What is it like?

Auden on China; BBC 16th January 1939.

What is the Chinese war like? Well, least I know it isn’t like wars in history books. You know, those lucid, tidy maps of battles one used to study at school. The flanks like neat little cubes, the pincer movements working with mathematical precision, the reinforcements never failing to arrive. It isn’t like that at all. War is bombing an already disused arsenal, missing it and killing a few old women. War is lying in a stable with a gangrenous leg. War is drinking hot water in a barn and worrying about one’s wife. War is a handful of lost and terrified men in the mountains, shooting at something moving in the undergrowth. War is waiting for days with nothing to do, shouting down a dead telephone, going without sleep, or sex, or a wash. War is untidy, inefficient, obscure, and largely a matter of chance.

So begins China and World War II - Part 1, episode 234 of The Rest is History podcast. The quote made me think of Ukraine. Indeed several other parallels arise during Tom Holland and  Dominic Sandbrook's conversation with Rana Mitter.

Roll on Part 2. I am listening to more and more podcasts. Since Spotify started supporting them seriously and I realised I could access my Echo speaker "everywhere" group from it I can play them throughout the house using the phone as a remote control while I do this and that, or indeed one thing and another.

Further, I woke up this morning to hear on the Today Programme news that a BBC Podcast Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story had revealed new details about his fatal plane crash on the way to Cardiff City. This came only a day after a US judge quashed a Baltimore man's murder conviction in a case that spawned hit true crime podcast Serial.

Something is stirring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Trip to Echo Spring

Olivia Laing's widely acclaimed account of why some of the best literature has been created by writers in the grip of alcoholism

In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. 

All six of these men were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often, they did their drinking together: Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafes of Paris in the 1920s; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973. 

Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever's New York to Williams' New Orleans, and from Hemingway's Key West to Carver's Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery. Beautiful, captivating, and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.
Well that's this month's Audible book sorted. This one though is free content from the Audible Plus Catalogue that John told me about last year (Icons passim), so September's credit lives to fight another day.

Monday, September 19, 2022

A life of service

I read David McCullough's biography of President Truman last year. On August 25, 1950, in anticipation of a crippling strike by railroad workers, he issued an executive order putting America’s railroads under the control of the U.S. Army, considering the intervention critical as he had just ordered American troops into a war against North Korean communist forces and much of America’s economic and defense infrastructure was dependent upon the smooth functioning of the tracks.

A telling detail is that in the afternoon the day before,  Truman had to go out to the White House South Lawn to host a reception for nearly nine hundred convalescent veterans from nearby military hospitals, among whom there were amputees and others who moved forward in the receiving line on crutches and in wheelchairs attended by nurses in starched white uniforms. Such garden parties for hospitalized veterans had been an annual tradition at the White House since 1919. Along with the First Lady, several of the Cabinet were present with their wives, as were Admiral Nimitz and General Bradley. The Marine Band played, strawberry ice cream and lemon punch were served, and for more than an hour Truman stood warmly greeting his guests, only once glancing over his shoulder in the direction of the Cabinet Room, not that there was any sign he resented interrupting knife-edge negotiations, he considered this symbolic part of his duties as President just as important as the nitty gritty of statecraft.

Why am I telling you all of this on the day of the Queen's funeral? Because it was on reading it that I was finally persuaded that having the head of state (the public persona who officially embodies a country's unity and legitimacy) as a ceremonial figurehead, is a better idea than combining the role with that of the head of government and more (such as the President of the United States, who is also commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces). Also that a constitutional monarchy is likely the best way to do it with a certain amount of glamour and dignity as personified in Her Majesty.

I can't bear this bloody thing': King Charles gets frustrated with leaky pen
Unfortunately, someone so irascible he can lose his rag about a pen (a pen!) in public and in front of television cameras is temperamentally unsuited for life as a ceremonial figurehead. The job will not be about him, it will be about him as a vehicle through which society's honour and respect is bestowed upon others. If Charles III doesn't understand that after seventy two years, he never will.

We should have gone straight to King William V. I don't think I have ever written it here before, but Prince William did his work experience with Andy Tea years and years ago; a very genial and pleasant fella I am told, a dab hand with the photocopier, and a genuine - as opposed to affected - Aston Villa supporter. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Cork upon a tide

Cardiff (my home town) kicked off their United Rugby Championship season in ideal fashion with a fine 20-13 victory over Munster (my DNA) at the Arms Park yesterday. I didn't see it as I was at the beer Festival in the Sultan, though I could (notes for future reference) have watched it on BBC Wales at home via the iPlayer, or on RTÉ 2 at the all-things-Irish Standard.

A thought has occurred to me as I am writing this. When I asked Ben over pizza earlier this week what he wanted for his birthday at the end of the month, he suggested another weekend away along the lines of our Seville sojourn. What about Cork? We could pay homage to our ancestors at their departure point and then kiss the blarney stone in the rebel county.
Ireland’s largest and second most populous county, Cork is also known for its recalcitrance. While many assume its nickname of ‘the rebel county’ refers to its role in Ireland’s 20th-century War of Independence, Cork actually has a much longer history of challenging claims to authority.
That sounds like us. Fill your boots here.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

An Inspector Calls

I went to see "An Inspector Calls" at the Wimbledon Theatre last Wednesday. Knew nothing about it (for all that I could imagine that an inspector might call somewhere in the proceedings) but thoroughly enjoyed the show all the same. (PG had given the thumbs up to Stephen Daldry's thirty year old production.) With a bit of judicious editing, there's probably a good episode of Colombo in it. That J.B. Priestley eh? He was a wag. Uncle Willy gave me his own personal copy of Priestley's "Literature And Western Man," a book he treasured so profoundly he never actually felt worthy of reading it himself.

The play must be set for GCSE or whatever because there were a lot of adolescent kids in school uniform in the audience; what I took for a girls school in tartan skirts up in the gods, and a boys school in the stalls. Badinage ensued. I found it all rather jolly and life affirming for all the tut-tut-tuts I heard from fellow grey beards, mostly women.

Hope for me yet?

Friday, September 16, 2022

Fathers and Sons

Ben sent me a longish message on Wednesday evening that wasn't a reply to one I had sent him. I practically fell off the chair. The message was just a chatty thing saying he'd started watching “Cosmos” by Neil deGrasse Tyson from 2014 and  particularly recommended episode 3 “When Knowledge Conquered Fear.”

Last night we went for a pizza in Corleone. A regular occurrence I will grant you but this time it was his suggestion not mine. A whole hour's scintillating chat about elliptical orbits (don't you wish you'd been there), then he showed me the new car he has bought. The student has become the master.

Which brings me to "Chris Eubank Snr demands ‘our sons must not fight’ as Nigel Benn insists ‘it’s happening.’"

For so long that it seems forever, it has seemed obvious to me that Eubank Senior doesn't like the idea of Junior boxing and is terrified every time he ducks through the ropes into the ring. I've have always thought it was at the heart of the boy's mysterious blind adoption in Las Vegas.

Eubank began his amateur career in 2007. With the winning of his sixth amateur fight, he became the Amateur Golden Gloves Champion for the State of Nevada in his weight division of 165 lbs. With his eighth amateur fight he became the Amateur Golden Glove Champion for the Western States of the United States in his weight division. 

It is almost as if his dad, if he couldn't dissuade him, sent him out to the States to prove he was serious by doing it on his own. (Eubank Snr's own father sent him to New York when he was 16 to keep him our of trouble in London, and that is where he started training.)

As for the specific objections to this upcoming Benn fight, I think he has got a point. In 2013 I read a short book called Making the Weight: Boxing's Lethal Secret.

Barry J Whyte examines the dangers of boxing’s 24-hour weigh-in by looking into the far-reaching consequences of a fight between Joey Gamache and Arturo Gatti in February 2000. He shines a light on a controversial system which allows boxers to ‘boil down’ for the weigh-in the day before the fight then pile the weight back on in the time left before stepping into the ring. He exposes the extreme physiological dangers both boxers are subject to under this flawed system.

Eubank Jnr is a much bigger man than his opponent Benn so the fight has been set at a catch-weight of 157lbs to which Eubank will sweat down while Benn bulks up. Fair enough you might think, Eubank Jr has fought at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds for a lot of his career, so dropping down three pounds should not be a huge issue, but he has revealed that the rehydration clause prevents him from being over 162 pounds on a Saturday check scaling. Consider that lately though he has been fighting at 168 and probably entering the ring at 180.

Why is this so dangerous? Dehydration is common in many sports. Jockeys frequently dehydrate before big races to avoid handicaps; practitioners of judo and karate regularly lose weight to fit into certain weight categories; Greco-Roman wrestling is rife with it. But boxing is the only sport where such widespread dehydration is followed by repeated punches to the head, often for up to half an hour. If the brain is moved fast enough and hard enough, it will bang into the internal walls of the skull causing system-wide trauma. If a fighter is dehydrated his brain will not be cushioned by as much cerebrospinal fluid and the trauma will be worse.

I am with Dad voting with his heart on this. Chris Eubank remembers what he did to Michael Watson, and I am sure that Nigel Benn remembers what he did to Gerald McClellan.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Reverses: Paul is the Burglar

This day last year

Paul had his stoma surgery for suspected bowel cancer on Monday. It took six hours, but he managed to get up for a brief walk yesterday, plus ten minutes on Skype.

The colostomy reversal was originally scheduled for August 31st (passim) but that was cancelled due to some sort of blood test mix up. (Mix up is probably a polite word for it.)

It was rescheduled for last Monday, but when he arrived he tested positive for COVID and was cancelled again.  What sticks in his craw particularly I think is that he had isolated the entire week before, only leaving the house twice, both times visiting the hospital for blood tests. He concludes, and I tend to agree with him, that must have caught it at the NHS' Princess Royal University Hospital because he hadn't been anywhere else and was taking regular lateral flow tests. Again, ironic is a polite word for it.

He muttered darkly about the dangers of "thickening" of the stoma reversal is long delayed. I don't know what that it and I didn't follow up because he sounded quite low over the 'phone. He is actually knocked sideways now by disappointment and genuinely severe COVID symptoms.

Waiting more than a year for a procedure that should have been done in a quarter of that time. Multiply it my millions, and say hello to post-pandemic Britain.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Once more with feeling

 I have finished part one of Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self . I have got it on Audible, and we gave the hardback to Peter on his birthday.

Chapter 6 'Our Splendid Circle' Summer-Winter 1796: The Schlegels arrive closes part one the first. Towards the end it describes August Wilhelm Schlegel working on the translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Jena (the geographical heart of the book). The very translation that Peter directed at the  Schauspielhaus Zürich in 1972. It also implies that polymath party girl Caroline Schelling, née Michaelis, widowed Böhmer, divorced Schlegel (the narrative heart of the book and his wife at the time) contributed very significantly to his Shakespeare work.

Wheels within wheels.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey


Europe’s electricity market: the scam of the century? Yanis Varoufakis (been reading him more than five years now) explains. If you have 23 minutes to spare today, invest it above. I have cued it to cut straight to the chase and avoid the introductions. Think of it as a much better version of my Marginal Pricing post.

Also, now my paranoia is kicking in, why has everything we are told about the war in Ukraine been reduced to repackaged Ukrainian press releases? Why are all our correspondents addressing us from their hotels far from the frontline? We aren't we seeing the kind of stuff that Jeremy Bowen was posting from the conflict's business-end, coming up for half a year ago, any more?
Exhibit A: Bloomberg
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the nation’s army has recaptured “more than 30 settlements” in the Kharkiv region, with units of the National Police moving in as Russian forces are expelled. The Institute for the Study of War estimates Ukraine has recaptured some 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles) of territory around Kharkiv. Kyiv’s forces may have liberated Kupyansk and Izyum on Saturday.  
We understand I take it that, for all that 2,500 square kilometers sound like a lot, the square root of 2,500 is 50. 50 km is just over 30 miles. A block 30 miles by 30 miles ain't all that big. The land area of Ukraine is 603,700 km². 2,500 is less than a half of one percent of that. I wouldn't be putting out the bunting yet, for all the cheer-leading in our press today. What if all we have seen is a tactical withdrawal by Russia to the other side of the Oskil river?
Working royals will be able to wear military uniforms at ceremonies marking the Queen's death.
Princes Harry and Andrew, who no longer perform senior royal duties, will not wear uniforms in which they have previously been seen at a string of events.
I hold no brief you understand. Neither for Harry nor Andrew, but it does seem a bit odd if the only two in civvies will be the only two who actually engaged in combat (Afghanistan and the Falklands respectively).

Monday, September 12, 2022

Compare and contrast

Took PG our for his weekly grocery shop yesterday morning as usual, then - also as usual - retired to the Plum Cafe in Munster Road for a coffee. It wasn't completely full, but it was crowded so he, being slightly claustrophobic and keen to sit close to the door, moved towards one of the round tables near the entrance. Each of these tables has three comfy chairs around it and his target already had a lady (of a certain age) at one of them. I asked, as close to politely as a Cardiffian can, if she minded if we sat at the other two. She looked at me as if I had just crawled out from under a stone, muttered something under her breath and then stomped off to the other end of the room. ("Stomping's easier in block heel court shoes than it is in stilettos sweetheart!" Don't ask me how I know.)

Fellow Cardiffians and not given to looking a gift horse in the mouth, PG and I sat down at the vacated table and waited for our coffees (ordered at the counter) to arrive. I told him she probably thought he was a skinhead as he was outfitted in blue jeans and a white t-shirt; a triumphant look for an 83 year old to pull off.  Also, there were three square two person tables to our left; wall seats opposite bistro chairs that were entirely occupied by three girls. They were sitting, I s'pose,  around the one in the centre but there was a handbag on the table furthest away from us, and the nearest girl had her glass on the table immediately adjacent to ours. That is four ladies taking up nine places before we two dared to beg to be admitted.

On her way out, the wasp chewing harridan stopped by our table to give me a severe wigging; sanctimonious bint. Would it kill her to be me more like the lovely lady I met calling for PG a fortnight ago (Icons passim).

Toxic masculinity? Me maybe, but Peter? I ain't buyin'.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Seasick Nick: Build and play your own 3 string cigar box guitar

Cigar Box Guitar Build and Play Workshop November 2022

Time & Location

26 Nov, 10:30 – 16:00

The Libertine Pub, 125 Great Suffolk St, London SE1 0BX, UK

Our workshops are a fun way to build your own Cigar Box Guitar.

You need no woodworking skills - if you can draw and cut in a straight (ish) line then you can build your guitar. We are there to help you over the tricky bits and and rescue you from any mistakes that you may make.

We supply all the parts (genuine Havana cigar box, hardwood guitar neck, NewTone  guitar strings - everything you need) and all the tools - we even supply lunch (The Libertine serves great Pizzas) and good company comes as standard.

At the end of the day we string your new instruments, tune them up and spend some time enjoying an introduction on how to play slide cigar box guitar. You'll soon be playing "Foot Stompin" music.

This is where my brother John and I will be on the last Saturday in November. The confirmation email says "if you have a small guitar practice amp please bring it along with you so you can play you very own cigar box guitar." The best way to get there is a twenty odd minute tube journey on the Northern line; the 'Wood to Borough. So we will be constructing these three string guitars in the pub all day, before heading back and coming back up out of the underground opposite the Standard. Three sheets to the wind, carrying guitars we made ourselves along with amplifiers. Liam and his regulars should be very afraid.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Love All

To the Jermyn Street Theatre last night for a preview of Love All, a "rediscovered classic" written by  Dorothy L. Sayers. I had completely forgotten I had a ticket for it until I was reminded and no clue as to what it might be. I absolutely loved it, which often happens when I bowl up with no preconceptions (Zen mind, beginners mind).

PG's "Something in the Air" is the next production there (apart from Sunday night one-offs), and the cast for that was announced in the week as you can see above. As an aside, we gave him a copy of Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self  by Andrea Wulf  for his birthday. 
Magnificent Rebels is a beautiful group biography, celebrating the lives and loves of Germany's most brilliant minds: Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Novalis, Schlegel, Schelling and Hegel. At the centre of their group in the small university town of Jena was a free-spirited, thrice married, single-mother named Caroline Michaelis-Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling.
"I directed Schlegel's German translation of A Midsummers Night's Dream in Zurich in the 1970s," he observed after unwrapping it. "Terrible problems with the Swiss German accents." Perhaps the greatest humblebrag in history.

Alan Cox, from 'Love All' with PG; small world eh?

Friday, September 09, 2022

Like as the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore

After the Queen died yesterday, a holding page took the place of the official website, Any other pages on the existing site that users might have bookmarked redirected to it as well.  The text below the image said:
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.
The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.
The official website of the Royal Family is temporarily unavailable while appropriate changes are made.
The idea was to streamline the site as much as possible so it could cope with an enormous traffic surge, plus hiding, even if temporarily, any existing content that might seem inappropriate in the circumstances.

I know this because it was my idea. Other content is gradually coming online today.

I met the Queen three times while we were working with the Household; at the launch of the new web site, at a Reception and at a Garden Party. The funniest encounter was at the launch. I had stayed up all night working, and hadn't eaten since lunchtime the day before. Absolutely starving, I loaded up a plate with buffet fayre, and turned around to find Her Majesty about six inches away chatting to someone. She was maybe three quarters turned from me. I remember the yellow jacket she was wearing very distinctly. She was so close, I could have put the plate of sandwiches in my hand on top of her head. Not that I did you understand.

There's a framed photo of Samantha Cohen presenting me to the Queen at that very event on the staircase wall in mum and dad's, though - from the arrangement - a photographic tribute to Ben - Brean Sands Junior Rugby Festival Top Try Scorer 2009 - seems to take precedent. Thinking of home and hearth, Dad was one of the servicemen who lined the route for the Coronation in 1953 when he was doing his National Service in the RAF.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Marginal Pricing

The energy market consultancy Cornwall Insight calculates more than £40bn of the estimated £100bn of the proposed energy price cap could be swallowed up in excess profits.

The energy companies concerned, mostly renewable and nuclear businesses, have agreed at least in principle to accept new long-term contracts at fixed prices well below current rates.

The energy price cap was only introduced in 2019. It's not like it is ancient history. After taking time off to watch Prime Minister's Questions lunchtime yesterday I am very far from convinced that either Liz Truss or Kier Starmer have got a scooby about the millstone we have tied around our own necks either.

Breaks down like this: Marginal pricing refers to electricity prices being set by the variable cost of the marginal plant, i.e. the most expensive plant that is required to serve demand. This is the way electricity prices are determined on short-term wholesale markets, such as the day-ahead market. All generators receive and all consumers pay the same price. A uniform price.

This is genuinely insane. Think about solar and wind power for example. once the capital costs have been defrayed they are, to all intents and purposes, free. What lemon negotiated a contract in which they get paid the same amount per kilowatt hour as it costs to burn Putin's gas? It wasn't me.

There's a hint of rhetorical exaggeration above, but not much. Not very much at all.

Bring on the Severn Barrage!

Update: I just thought of another way to explain this, using Peter's birthday dinner at Avanti yesterday evening. He walked there from his flat and was content with a bowl of spaghetti served with a simple tomato sauce, along with a jug of tap water and finished  with a coffee. I got a cab there and back and grazed on multiple small plates of exotic tapas guzzling copious quantities of good red wine all the while. The "market clearing price" for the evening would be what it cost me to attend (taxi, grub, booze), so - if the contract had been negotiated by Her Majesty's Government - that is what everyone else who went would have been charged as well. Point of order Mr Chairman: I picked up the tab though, for all that, my lucid economic parable is still valid.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Something in the Air

It is PG's birthday today. A few of us will get together at Avanti in the Fulham Palace Road this evening. With this in the back of my mind I have realised I don't actually know how old he is. 

"Peter Gill (born 7 September 1939) is a Welsh theatre director, playwright, and actor. He was born in Cardiff to George John and Margaret Mary (née Browne) Gill, and educated at St Illtyd's College, Cardiff." says Wikipedia which makes him 83.

Having a new play open in one's 84th year is very cool indeed:

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Boris Johnson's Legacy: Leveling Up

UK Slips Behind India to Become World’s Sixth Biggest Economy
  • Loss of status comes as ruling Tory party elects new premier
  • Cost of living shock batters UK, while Indian economy surges
The Indian economy is forecast to be a fifth larger than the UK by 2027

[Liz Truss] will take over a nation facing the fastest inflation in four decades and rising risks of a recession that the Bank of England says may last well into 2024.

By contrast, the Indian economy is forecast to grow more than 7% this year. A world-beating rebound in Indian stocks this quarter has just seen their weighting rise to the second spot in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, trailing only China’s. 
I've nothing against the good people of India you understand. More power to the collective Indian elbow, as far as I am concerned. It's just that when Boris Johnson was making speeches about leveling up, I kinda, sorta assumed he was talking about places like Bradford and Doncaster rather than, say, Mumbai and Bangalore.

Let's be honest; the man could ruin a debutante and leave her on the street, a homeless crack whore, all the while claiming he was contributing to social mobility.

Over to you Ms Truss ...... Had we but world enough and time .........

Monday, September 05, 2022

Now Pay Attention 007!

 Rod M might not make it over from Germany to Blighty at the end of the month after all. He has accidentally put his passport through the washing machine and has learned it could take up to ten weeks to get a replacement. I was looking forward to seeing him, but there is something irresistibly funny about this.

It just seems so wonderfully prosaic after he has spent his life dodging bullets and bombs everywhere from a refugee camp on the Afghan/Pakistan border, to D.R. Congo. to Ukraine, to Mali etc. on behalf of the UN, the OSCE etc. (There's a photo of the drowned, disfigured remains of the passport, but I have slapped a D-notice on it.)

I like to think of it as the International Man of Mystery's equivalent of "the dog ate my homework."

If Barbara Broccoli approaches me to pen the next James Bond movie (the 26th I think), the pre-credits sequence will involve 007 in the launderette.

Skip that. It's been done. Nothing new under the sun, I guess.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Three Thousand Years of Longing


I put the 643rd of the 1,001 Nights to bed this morning. (To bed this morning? Shurely shome mishtake! Ed.) Any roads it makes the movie above pretty much a must see.

What else? I watched Hail, Caesar! on Netflix yesterday. Practically fell off the couch laughing. Last day to watch - Septemebr 10th. Fill your boots asap.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Hunter is captured by the game


PG has finished casting his play. Helen tipped me a whimsical wink about the film above because he had thought at one time that Laurence Fox might have been good in one of the roles.
© Brietbart TV. My Son Hunter trailer. Starring Laurence Fox and Gina Carano. Directed by Robert Davi.
There's a lot to unpick here. First © Brietbart TV. Breitbart News Network, is a syndicated right wing news and opinion website (Wikipedia). It might seem a bit of a stretch for them to be getting into the movie business, but they are not alone. The Daily Wire is an American conservative news website and media company founded in 2015 by Breitbart alumnus Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing. As far as I can tell it started as a vehicle for Boering to direct and produce Shapiro's podcast, but it has grown like topsy since then with a whole movie slate at

The slate includes Terror on the Prairie:
Gina Carano is back. Disney canceled her. Now, the un-canceling begins. Gina makes her return in this gritty new western and original feature film by The Daily Wire. On the Montana plains, a frontier woman must protect herself against a ruthless gang of outlaws hell-bent on revenge.
Gina Carano, you will have noticed is also in My Son Hunter. She first appeared on the spindrift pages coming up for fifteen years ago, when Ben was training in muay Thai and she was the first real break out female Thai boxer. It was very muich a minority interest back then. Since then she has had a movie and TV career that shuddered to a halt when she became embroiled in the sort of alt-right controversy alluded to above. The details elude me.

Robert Davi, the director, of course is remembered by all right thinking people as the villain in the Timothy Dalton James Bond film Licence to Kill.

One swallow doesn't make a summer, but something is stirring in America's loins. Something very different, I think, from what Joe Biden was referring to in that strange Philadelphia speech earlier this week.

Friday, September 02, 2022

If you want to write an essay.....


I watched episode 2 of The Capture with Paapa yesterday, and noticed that Indira Varma, who was the best thing in The Seagull when we saw it recently, was in it.

Good stuff, but not a busman's holiday if you know your protocol stacks. When our heroes identified the spoof Newsnight footage as being from a Chinese IP address, I raised a quizzical eyebrow, surely anyone half competent would have geo-spoofed it with a VPN?

As ever, the shade of the old man intervened. He was a forensic consulting engineer and a small thing I admired about him was his ability to enjoy movies set in his world without nit-picking.

Exhibit A: My Cousin Vinny:

.... just the type of thing he would have said as an "expert witness" though with a different accent and softer intonation.

He also had good things to say about Erin Brockovich, which I thought was gracious. If you want to write an essay, write an essay. If you want to write a screenplay, write a screenplay.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Mistrusting Ms Truss, my mistress

Dear Ms Truss,

I believe you know everything by magic as you have a PPE degree. (Pernicious Political Elite, or Philosophy Politics and Economics? I can never remember.)

1. Yesterday, 61.5% of UK power generation came from gas (combined cycle). Over the past year it averaged 42.3%. What (in a simplified way we serfs can understand) is a  combined-cycle, natural-gas power plant and why has our dependence upon them rocketed just as LNG prices have gone through the roof? The National Grid Live Status (here) is informative. (Hat tip, Kate Rose Morley.)

2. As Foreign Secretary you will be familiar with the strategic concept and sophisticated government strategy 'Carrier Enabled Power Projection.'

HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy’s £3.5 billion aircraft carrier, looks to be set for a lengthy inspection in a dry dock. The warship remained anchored off the south-east coast of the Isle Wight on Monday, where it broke down on Sunday evening less than 24 hours after setting sail for the United States. 'Power for the projection of" one assumes.

Discuss, paying as much attention to the weakness of your assumptions as the grandeur of any conclusions you may draw.

Worried that I will shortly be your obedient servant,


(P.S. PG would have fired you as an assistant stage manager never mind a holder of one of the Great Offices of State after such a clusterf*ck.)