Saturday, December 31, 2022

Where am I today?

@scheifferbates Every Welsh person returning to Wales from England #wales #england #welsh ♬ original sound - Scheiffer Bates
That's right! Down by, over by yer!

In a related development, I have heard that an under-the-radar non-profit organisation comprised almost exclusively of the world's leading philologists has deduced that almost everything I post here has been cut and pasted from Wikipedia. Really? Cut and paste this

Friday, December 30, 2022


Pele is dead at 82.

Mexico 70 is my first hazy football memory. Dad took my younger brother Vince and I to see a game in a friend's house, as the family had a, deep breath, colour television! I have two abiding memories; the contrast between the vivacious gaudy brightness of the pitch in the sun with the sections towards the touchline in the shadow of the stadium roof. The second is being mortified with embarrassment as I was there in my pajamas. The decision or opportunity to take us must have been a last minute thing.

Truth be told, I can't clearly remember exactly what game we saw, but I imagine it would either have been the final - Brazil beat Italy 4-1 the day before my ninth birthday - or the 1-0 game in the group stages in which Brazil beat defending champions England. Either way Pele would have featured.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Ghosts of Two Horses

We had a weird but funny pissing competition in a local WhatsApp group yesterday. The Hendries, who are in New Zealand, posted a photo of a beautiful, tinged summer sunset on a beach. Lee, who is out there with Vera, responded with the view from their Parisian apartment, chic as the city itself. Everyone piled in etc etc etc.

In the end I got the arse and posted a picture of the fence in my back garden. And yet, and yet .......

Half way down the image, and to the right, the ghosts of two horses swam into view. I have ordered a canvas print of what I think may become a key image of the 21st century.

My Canvas

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Ethics of Care

This month's Audible credit has gone on In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development by Carol Gilligan.

Prodnose: And it is all Sean's fault for writing The Englishwoman?

Yes. Do your remember that recently, I have been pondering if not positing (Icons passim) a longstanding female moral tradition that we may trace from The Three Marys at the Crucifixion, via the Medieval anchoresses to, say, Edith Stein, Simone Weil, and even Elizabeth Anscombe in the 20th century?

Prodnose: No.

It has struck me of late, that the "ethics of care;" a feminist approach that challenges traditional moral theories as male-centric and problematic to the extent they omit or downplay values and virtues usually culturally associated with women or with roles that are often cast as ‘feminine' may be considered as part of the same stream. Thus Ms Gilligan's book, widely credited as kick starting the movement is relevant.

Prodnose (looking like a fool): Ah yes, of course very much so.

Can we not find analogues in Simone Weil's radical conception of attention, or in Edith Stein’s phenomenology of sensual and emotional empathy?

Prodnose (ungraciosuly): I s'pose.

Myself (lighting pipe and impersonating Tony Hopkins as CS Lewis in Shadowlands): The English term “empathy,” in fact, was coined only in 1908 as a translation of the German Einfühlung, which literally means “in-feeling.” Stein's 1917 dissertation  is increasingly discussed and viewed as one the most nuanced phenomenological accounts, on a par with Husserl’s and Scheler’s analyses. Edith Stein? That'll be St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942) to you, young fella me lad.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Vagus Nerve

I was sitting in the Standard last night shooting the breeze with Jone, among others. Perhaps because he is Norwegian, the subject of biathlon - the weird (at least to our eyes) Scandinavian winter-sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting - came up. I mentioned, in passing, that I had heard that competitors in it had such extraordinary self mastery that they could lower their heart rates just by concentrating. He told me it was likely true as during the race, the skiers' hearts pump at close to the maximum allowable rate, but between these sprints they have to switch gears and fire a steady shot.

When I wondered out loud, how such an extraordinary thing could be achieved, Renu - his fiance and a doctor - piped up; they accomplish it by enhanced control of the vagus nerve.

"Never heard of it," was my contribution to the discussion.

"Also known as the tenth cranial nerve, it interfaces with the parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract."

"Ah, heart and lungs eh?"

"It is a channel by which they can be relaxed by, say, deep slow breathing or even the application of a cold press to the upper area of the sternum."

"Like yoga!"

"I was thinking more of the role of endurance training, central command, reflexes from muscle, and of the carotid-cardiac baroreceptor reflex in changing vagal tone during intense exercise and recovery, but yes, like yoga."

I'm so happy I went down the pub rather than the library opposite. It is more educational.

Monday, December 26, 2022

not with wisdom but with the conceit of wisdom

For years, there has been worldwide fear of artificial intelligence (AI) and its impending takeover of the world… who knew that it would start with the world of art and literature.
It certainly scares the shit out of me, because it is opaque (its reasons are hidden), and it is (inevitably in and of itself because of the way it "learns") a tool for magnifying prejudices. Just because we have had many Prime Ministers who went to Eton doesn't mean that we should.

Sean made a good point when I asked him what he thought. It struck me that someone who had written books called things like "The Death and Return of the Author" and "The Ethics of Signature" might have something to contribute here, and he made a terrific point.
Indeed, there are very few differences at a philosophical level between arguments for and against writing and those for and against digital technology and at a practical level many centuries will have elapsed before we will know whether the opportunities afforded by the latter outweigh the dangers.
Fascinating. I think I should have another crack at Plato's Phaedrus with that analogy fresh in my head.
Here, O king, is a branch of learning that will make the people of Egypt wiser and improve their memories. My discovery provides a recipe for memory and wisdom. But the king answered and said ‘O man full of arts, the god-man Toth, to one it is given to create the things of art, and to another to judge what measure of harm and of profit they have for those that shall employ them.’
Quite, and again.
And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only the semblance of wisdom, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much while for the most part they know nothing. And as men filled not with wisdom but with the conceit of wisdom they will be a burden to their fellows.
Thinking of the David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak brain-dead PPE/Oxford Union coagulation that has constipated the county for the last dozen years, AI is not the only dragon that needs slaying. Plato will outlast us all.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto

“Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.” ― Simone Weil
Prodnose: I don't understand the connection.
Myself: I wish I didn't understand the connection.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Weil 1 de Beauvoir 0

What I think is Simone de Beauvoir's only meeting with Simone Weil, from de Beauvoir's first volume of autobiography "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter."

While preparing to enter the Normale — the training-college in Paris for professoriates — she was taking the same examinations as myself at the Sorbonne. She intrigued me because of her great reputation for intelligence and her bizarre get-up; she would stroll round the courtyard of the Sorbonne attended by a group of Alain's old pupils; she always carried in the one pocket of her dark-grey overall a copy of Libres Propos and in the other a copy of Humanite. A great famine had broken out in China, and I was told that when she heard the news she had wept: these tears compelled my respect much more than her gifts as a philosopher. I envied her for having a heart that could beat right across the world. I managed to get near her one day. I don't know how the conversation got started; she declared in no uncertain tones that only one thing mattered in the world today: the Revolution which would feed all the starving people of the earth. I retorted, no less peremptorily, that the problem was not to make men happy, but to find the reason for their existence. She looked me up and down: 'It's easy to see you've never gone hungry,' she snapped. Our relationship did not go any further. I realized that she had classified me as 'a high-minded little bour-geois', and this annoyed me, just as I used to be annoyed whenever Mademoiselle Litt attributed certain tastes I had to the fact that I was only a child; I believed that I had freed myself from the bonds of my class: I didn't want to be anyone else but myself. 

It fills me with delight that Weil beat de Beauvoir into second place in their general philosophy exams at the Sorbonne. Maybe a trip to her grave in Ashford, Kent ought to be on my list for 2023? She is buried in the dedicated Catholic section in Bybrook Cemetery there.

A random thought; Weil, Sir Richard Francis Burton and Wittgenstein (three of my favourites) are all laid to rest in Catholic soil despite not being, officially, of the faith.

Friday, December 23, 2022

A Question of Agency

Out for a Christmas dinner with PG last night the subject of agents came up. I am very far from clear exactly what it is they do, but acquisition thereof is a hurdle the drama school nieces will have to overcome at some stage.

His first was Robin Fox, and after that he was with Peggy Ramsay. Follow the links in the last sentence to their Wikipedia pages. They sound like a couple of colourful characters.

Robin Fox, was the scion of the theatrical dynasty comprising Edward, James, Laurence etc. As well as "the grandson of Samson Fox (1838–1903), a British engineer and philanthropist, principal founder of the Royal College of Music and inventor of the corrugated boiler flue." Principal founder of the Royal College of Music and inventor of the corrugated boiler flue, is unimprovable. Let's not even go there.

In Prick Up Your Ears (1987), the Joe Orton film biopic, Peggy  Ramsay is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave, The Letters of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent, a collection of her letters edited by Colin Chambers, was published in 2018. "She would have got my new play on," says Peter. "Probably by blackmailing someone."

We shall not see their like again. Peter is still with Casarotto Ramsay & Associates Limited.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Only connect

Leafing through the Guardian yesterday, I came across this article about the upcoming Whitney Houston biopic, much of it is an interview with the screenwriter Anthony McCarten. Various neurons fired because I remembered he was a friend of Donna's (a mate of his went out with her sister - Icons passim) when they were growing up in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Based on this, it struck me that I hadn't seen Donna for a while so we arranged to meet up for a glass or two of wine in Canedo after work. Rebecca came along as well in the end. 

Google told me he also has a play that "opened" on Broadway a few days ago, I put opened in inverted commas because, as the Daily Mail told us: 

Jennifer Connelly walked opening night red carpet BEFORE husband Paul Bettany’s debut The Collaboration is canceled due to COVID-19

  • The show was called off due to a positive COVID amid cast and crew
  • Connelly, 52, was stylish in a a black Louis Vuitton monogram long-sleeved dress
  • 'Performances will resume on a date to be announced,' a rep for the show said

You have to love America. Still going ahead with the parade even though the show has been cancelled. It will sound familiar to Afghan girls who can't go to school or university now. You can always rely on the USA because it will always let you down.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Third Rome

 I listened to episode 23 of the Empire podcast "The Fall of Constantinople" last night. (More accurately I listened to it at about 10:30 in the evening when Virgin Media came back online.)

At the end William Dalrymple says something along the lines of:

Russia now sees itself as the last surviving pillar of Orthodoxy. Rome was the first Rome, Constantinople was the second Rome, Moscow now regards itself as the third Rome. They see themselves as the last true Christians.

Interesting stuff; for all that I've referred before (Icons passim) to an sort of unholy trinity, comprising Putin, Aleksandr Dugin and Patriarch Kirill, marrying Russian irredentism and a Slavic manifest destiny; I may have played down the religious angle.

Deep history can be surprisingly relevant to contemporary events and tensions. There are now two Orthodox churches in Ukraine. The older and larger church is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate; a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is under the spiritual authority of Patriarch Kirill (see paragraph above) of Moscow. 

By contrast, the second, newer church, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, celebrates its independence from Moscow. With the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, a solemn council met in Kyiv as recently as December 2018, created the new church, and elected its leader, Metropolitan Epifaniy. In January 2019, Patriarch Bartholomew formally recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as a separate, independent and equal member of the worldwide communion of Orthodox churches.

I've still got a lot of work to do understanding all this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Road Trip

I caught up with Jone over the weekend who filled me in a bit more on his adventures driving a firetruck in a convoy that met outside Oslo to donate in Ukraine (Icons passim).

"You understand units of measurements, don't you?" he said and when I confirmed that I did showed me a spec sheet. He has persuaded someone to contribute a generator. It weighs 3,718 kg and puts out 320 kW. 

"Bloody hell!" says I, "You could run a hospital with that!"

"Yes, yes you could," he replied, then, as it this was a bagatelle, "All I need now is someone to donate a crane truck, I have got a few irons in the fire."

Wouldn't it be great to go with him in the cab. One last adventure before old age and breakfast wine bring the curtain down.

Last time he went over the border at the Hrebenne-Rava-Ruska: road, cargo, passenger - and rail passenger crossing; on the next trip he is hoping to get as far as Lviv.

All that said, the longer this goes on the more pessimistic I get about Ukraine's prospects. I find the gloomy John Mearsheimer and Col Doug MacGregor* more convincing than the boosters. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Russia pushes on all the way to Odessa, leaving Ukraine land-locked, as well establishing the Dnipro river as the new border between the countries.

*I heard MacGregor say the other day that there are 40,000 US troops in Poland. Can that be right? It seems extraordinary.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Y Wladfa

Y Wladfa (Welsh pronunciation: [ə ˈwladva], "The Colony"), also occasionally Y Wladychfa Gymreig (Welsh pronunciation: [ə wlaˈdəχva ɡəmˈreiɡ], "The Welsh Settlement"), refers to the establishment of settlements by Welsh immigrants in Patagonia, beginning in 1865, mainly along the coast of the lower Chubut Valley. In 1881, the area became part of the Chubut National Territory of Argentina which, in 1955, became Chubut Province.

Patagonian Welsh (Welsh: Cymraeg y Wladfa) is a variety of the Welsh language spoken in Y Wladfa, The decimal numeral system used in Modern Welsh originated in Patagonia in the 1870s, and was subsequently adopted in Wales in the 1940s as a simpler counterpart to the traditional vigesimal system, which still survives in Wales.
Some small part of me actually won the Qatar World Cup yesterday.

Sunday, December 18, 2022


Rosalía makes other pop stars look like they are not trying hard enough. On the penultimate date of her 2022 Motomami world tour, the 30-year-old electro-flamenco star brought an ice melting blast of Spanish sizzle to a wintery London. In one of the most inventively staged arena productions of recent years, she danced like a dervish, sang like a nightingale, rapped like a gangster, played piano and guitar, and she did it all with such complete commitment to the song and the moment that she seemed constantly either on the verge of tearful disintegration or joyful self-combustion.....
Having studied at music school in Barcelona, Rosalía Vila Tobella achieved local fame as a traditional flamenco singer, before rising to become a superestrella by audaciously blending traditional music with electronica, R’n’B and hip hop. While streaming has opened up the global market for more exotic rhythms and non-English language songs, there is a sense that Britain hasn’t quite caught up yet. Rosalía’s wildly adventurous third album, Motomami, has been the most acclaimed album of 2022 according to aggregate website, but didn’t even crack the top 40 in the UK.
Can this be what I have been unconsciously searching for since Ben and I got back from Seville?There's only one way to find out.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

"On ne naît pas femme, on le devient"

I've been talking to Sean about his novel The Englishwoman quite a lot lately.

But why has this white, middle-class Londoner with no political or religious affiliations made this perilous journey in the first place? And why does she turn down the opportunity to escape when death becomes the likely outcome?

Why indeed? It has led me, I think, to uncover - or possibly posit - a longstanding female moral tradition that we may trace from The Three Marys at the Crucifixion, via the Medieval anchorites (in Britain from the 12th to the 16th centuries, anchoresses consistently outnumbered their male counterparts by as many as four to one) to, say, Edith Stein, Simone Weil, and even Elizabeth Anscombe in the 20th century. An heroic, under-celebrated form of resistance that manifests itself, superficially passively, in the bearing of witness. A necessary corrective to the male tendency to "pick sides" as if every dispute was a football, rugby or cricket match.

The trouble with this though, it has struck me lately, is that there is absolutely no way to square Simone de Beauvoir with it. Specifically the way that Le Deuxième Sexe turns the existentialist mantra that existence precedes essence into equally dreary tone-deaf proto-feminist gobbledygookery. On reflection, I will go further, its publication in 1949 represents the moment when the worm turned, when abdication of responsibility was equated with moral superiority. Today's cankers like the sex-gender distinction and granular internally contradicted identity politics followed, it seems in retrospect, slowly but inevitably.

I diskard her uterly.

Prodnose: Eh? Who are you today? Roger Scruton?

Myself: You try writing when you are listening to "Digging Your Scene" by the Blow Monkeys  or "Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie Fisher and see how much sense you make.

Prodnose: Show me the 80s white label 12" singles and I will show you the man.

Myself: Tru dat.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The Friends of "Best of Enemies"

Best of Enemies is a triumph. I can't say any more about it at the risk of letting cats out of bags.

If I had one criticism it was, for all that it was skillfully done, there was too much exposition. It has dawned on me this morning that I did get stuck into what was called the "New Journalism" at an early age and drank deeply from, off my head and in no particular order Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese and Norman Mailer. Mailer's "Miami and the Siege of Chicago" was a particular touchstone last night. There's a battered hardback copy on PG's bookshelves as I recall.

Speak memory: to get home from school I had to get two buses, on from Llanrumney into town and then another from town to Rhiwbina. In town, I could pop into Lear's, Cardiff's main bookshop, and pick up imported Bantam paperbacks of books by the sort of authors name-checked in the previous paragraph. The seemed impossibly glamorous to me at the time because they had occasional glossy pages of adverts bound into them. These days I would probably compare them to my Folio Society editions and find them wanting.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Performance of my Life

 I got a message from Mia yesterday, she said she had been chatting to some bloke at the wrap party for the BBC thing she was shooting and had mentioned going to see Paapa Essiedu in "A Number" with us at the Old Vic back in January (passim). He said he and Paapa were old friends having shared a flat when they were at Guildhall and even for a few years after.  He turns out to have been Sion Alun Davies who has featured previously (passim) on these pages as an "Antelope Tooting Pub Quiz regular."

When I told Frankie, she mentioned in passing that Jonathan Holloway, who lives a few doors away in my street, has written a newly imagined adaptation of Dickens' popular short story, The Visitor that will go out on Radio 4 on Christmas Day with an all star cast

It may be a small world, but it certainly seems to revolve around me.

Oh and we are going to see Best of Enemies tonight.

Ain't all roses on the drama front though. Not by any means gravy as Netflix’s Cancels ‘Warrior Nun,’ Its Highest Audience-Scored Series Ever. Boo! Cries of shame.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Cuban Brothers - So Sweet

I can't remember where I saw the Cuban Brothers. I am pretty sure it was at a big open air festival gig; maybe Hyde Park or Clapham Common. My memory seems to suggest that they were just performing on the grass, not even on a stage. For all that they were great.

Spotify seems to know I liked them. It told me this morning that they are playing at the Fox & Firkin in  Lewisham on February 4th.

Noooooo! I agreed with Ben only l;ast night that we would be in Cork that weekend.

Anyway, do yourself a favour and press play above.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Anything for a quiet life

Jone (Icons passim) has delivered his fire truck from Norway to Ukraine. The shot on the right is taken from its cab at the border, 

There is another photo encypted in WhasApp that has the caption "This Norwegian is a paramedic at the front line. Came to receive the ambulances and medical supplies we brought." Probably best not to publish that in public I guess and risk him being identified.

I'm really impressed by this and that is generally not my style at all. I'm going to meet the son and heir after work in the Standard for a swift half after work tonight before going next door but one to Corleone for our semi regular pizzas. Then on Thursday I am going to the theatre (Icons passim). These two trips represent more than enough excitement for a week from my point of view. 

I imagine he is back in Poland now. "Now we celebrate," he writes under the photo of bottles and glasses to the right. He has earned it.

He says he will be back in the Standard on Friday evening. That should be a good night. We will also be saying good bye to the Hendries until after Christmas as they are flying off to New Zealand on Saturday.

Monday, December 12, 2022

What Do You Think of it So Far? Rubbish!

The council rubbish collection will be on Thursday 29 December ether than the usual Tuesday as it is Christmas. I was popping some stuff in the paper and card blue-lidded wheelie bin that I keep in the front garden in the winter yesterday, when I noticed a black parcel in it. I live at 11 Xxxxxxx Road, and it was addressed to a girl with an Indian name who live round the corner at 11 Xxxxxxx Close. (I don't care of you have my address but I ain't giving out hers.)

I popped it round. We occasionally get each others mail but this was ridiculous. What was even more ridiculous is that she told me it was her father's Christmas present. What kind of lemon "delivers" a parcel into a waste bin? I could easily have missed it completely.

On the bright Christmas side the winter's first snow fell last night and I woke to a blanket thereof.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Within you and without you

 Ah well; England and Wales are both out of the World Cup now, but life goes on.

By life, of course I mean me going to the theatre once a month.

Best of Enemies is booked for Thursday.

"Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights" in the  candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe was lined up last week for January 4th. More in hope than expectation this, but I thought I would give it a go. I polished off Night 750 of the 1,001 this morning, which is more than two years' worth at the rate of one a day.

I can see "The King and I" in my calendar on February the 14th. I have also got an email confirming I bought the tickets, for all that I have no recollection at all of booking them or with whom I am going. This is going to need sensitive handling if noses are not to be put out of joint.

Finally, at least for today I need to get to the touring version of Girl from the North Country at the Wimbledon Theatre between the 14th and 18th of March next year. That'll be more than four years after \I met up with John and Lorraine after they saw, what I think was, the original production (Icons passim).

Saturday, December 10, 2022

WhatsApp Doc?

Alright, the adventure has just begun. Man (44), fire truck (33) and about 2000 kilometres to Ukraine. What could possibly go wrong? Btw it’s snowing, and the tyres are really old… 😬😁

Wow, friend and all round good egg ,  Jone has set off from Norway to deliver a fire engine to Ukraine. Also he says he has to maintain radio silence until he has dropped it off and got back to Poland. Renu, his partner must be at her wits' end, but Andy Tea has told me she has gone off to a spa with her mum for the weekend; a good strategy for all that she must still be anxious. I'm anxious for goodness sake. God knows what it must be like for her.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Imperial Overreach

 Two 'tings yesterday.

First off the bat, back in 2019,  an American woman called Anne Sacoolas killed a boy called Harry Dunn; she was driving on the wrong side of the road. She was whisked away back to the good old USA,  luckily for her, we are told, she had diplomatic immunity as the wife of a US agent working in the UK. She was promptly shipped out of the UK. Yesterday she was sentenced to to eight months in prison, suspended for 12 months, for causing a death by careless driving. The former US spy was sentenced in an "unprecedented" case at the Old Bailey - but did not attend the hearing in person after American officials advised against.

'Nother 'ting on the same day the US and Russia exchanged jailed US basketball star Brittney Griner for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, 

Biden's administration is a disgrace. Imagine if France had done two such cynical simultaneous deals with the UK; you'd never hear the end of it.

You didn't read it hear first, but at the end of the day, the USA - adrift without principle - ultimately will abandon anyone and anything without a backwards glance. Vietnam? Afghanistan? Pay attention the good people of Ukraine.

Let's not extradite Julian Assange.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Warrior Nun

I have finished Warrior Nun Series 2 on Netflix now, so the plot spoiler ban is lifted. The supernatural entity who lived in the realm on the other side of the Arc, a being called Ria certainly cheered me up enormously whenever she was mentioned; sharing as she did, the name my cousin goes by. I hope there is a series 3, and I hope there is more Ria in it.

Prodnose: You'll be free to watch Harry & Meghan Volume 1 then, when Netflix drops that today then, if it hasn't landed already.

Myself: You'll be free to watch Harry & Meghan Volume 1 then, when Netflix drops that today then, if it hasn't landed already.

Prodnose: What does all that mean; the text with the line through it?

Myself: It means I'm not going to watch it. I am playing with typographical conventions.

Prodnose (looking like a fool): Oh yes, of course you are I see it now.

Wednesday, December 07, 2022


I have been following William Dalrymple and Anita Anand's Empire podcast (Icons passim) since it started, though not - I must admit - religiously. The first series was about the British in India and the first episode of the second series, which will be about the Ottoman Empire dropped early yesterday morning. In it, Anita and William are joined by Peter Frankopan (Icons passim) to discuss Byzantium and the rise of the Seljuk Turks. I will try and follow this more completely.

I have embedded the episode from Spotify above. No particular agenda, I just wondered if I could.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Ghosts of Princes in Towers

I took a screen shot of Prince Harry playing the guitar from the first Netflix trailer he and Meghan released. It looks to me as if he is aiming for A7 but his finger have slipped down a fret. 

Charitably it is a half diminished seventh chord topped with a fifth, but I am not sure that is what he was aiming at and does make a terrible racket.

I did it independently but I am not the only one who has raised a quizzical eyebrow. Take a look at this leg pull.

I remembered bass player Phil's story, from decades ago about Prince Edward being sent out to put a pound in the parking meter when he was doing a session. It was when Edward aspired to a showbiz career, and was learning the ropes at the Really Useful Theatre Company with Andrew Lloyd Webber?

I laughed at the time, but - on reflection - he comes well out of it. At least Eddie was there rolling up his sleeves and getting on with the matter at hand. Imagine asking Harry or - God help us Meghan - to do something like that! Instant proof of your racism.

I was telling Jone about Harry's guitar fail in the pub when we were watching the football and he pulled up the wonderful picture below on his phone of Boris Johnson "playing the guitar.

Public Service Announcement: A capo can be placed on the strings of a guitar so you can play a song in a different key. It pinches all the strings across a particular fret, essentially shortening the strings, raising each string by a semitone for each fret.  In the picture, BoJo's left hand is on the wrong side of the capo, making whatever chord he is threading utterly irrelevant.

Monday, December 05, 2022

A Mad World, My Masters

Nadhim Zahawi, , the Conservative Party chairman, has urged nurses to accept a lower pay rise to send a “very clear message” to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

He told unions it was time to “try and negotiate” and insisted that the soaring costs facing Britons this winter were predominantly because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We have to come together, this is not a time to be divided,” he told Sky’s Sophie Ridge. “I hope to send a very clear message to Mr Putin that he cannot use energy as a weapon in this way."

I am so outraged by the conflation of two, essentially unrelated, issues (nurses' pay and war in Ukraine) that I can't understand why nobody else seems to be. It is as cheap a platitudinous gesture as I have ever had the misfortune to see.

I looked Nadhim  up on Wikipedia. He has got a degree in chemical engineering. It makes me wonder f I can send mine back; something along the lines of John Lennon returning his MBE.

All this on the same day as Iran said it had ‘abolished’ the hardline morality police blamed for death of Mahsa Amini. We will wait obviously to see how this plays out, and I can't help but wonder how much the brave and dignified actions of the Iranian football team at the world cup contributed.

A Sunday so absurd that the Tories were spouting gibberish Goebbels would have blushed at, while the "mad mullahs" were following the will of their people? 

Sunday, December 04, 2022


I woke up this morning all alone in the old family house on the second anniversary of dad passing on. Bittersweet, but that Cathedral of Memory was, on reflection, one of the better places I could have been this morning. I am back in London now.

I visited mum yesterday. It was the first anniversary of her sister's death, but I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and didn't remind her. John, my brother brought a custom jigsaw made from a photo of of her and the old man before a Law Society dinner. It took a while but she finished with a flourish; mental and social stimulation plus hand to eye coordination retraining, in one handy package.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Best of Enemies


We have got tickets for Best of Enemies on December 15th; a fact that came as something of a surprise to me even though I had booked them. I stumbled on an APB I had put out mid November in WhatsApp, plus a confirmation to the people who had said yes that I had bought the tickets. Not a sausage in my diary never mind my memory for all that I could find the transaction in my card statement. Diligent searching revealed the tickets in my email's spam folder. Delfont Mackintosh Theatres' reputation can't be what it was. I truly leave my life like a castaway adrift on a makeshift raft in the Atlantic.

I am very much looking forward to seeing David Harewood as William F Buckley Jr. Some people have cavilled at the casting, but I think it could be a stroke of genius. Thomas SowellJohn McWhorterGlenn LouryClarence Thomas etc. could all be described, to a greater or lesser extent, as heirs of Buckley and might resonate with the performance.

Friday, December 02, 2022


Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations 

§265 Let us imagine a table (something like a dictionary) that exists only in our imagination. A dictionary can be used to justify the translation of a word X by a word Y. But are we also to call it a justification if such a table is to be looked up only in the imagination? -- "Well, yes; then it is a subjective justification." -- But justification consists in appealing to something independent. -- "But surely I can appeal from one memory to another. For example, I don't know if I nave remembered the time of departure of a train right and to check it I call to mind how a page of the time -- table looked. Isn't it the same here?" -- No; for this process has got to produce a memory which is actually correct. If the mental image of the time -- table could not itself be tested for correctness, how could it confirm the correctness of the first memory? (As if someone were to buy several copies of the morning paper to assure himself that what it said was true.)

Looking up a table in the imagination is no more looking up a table than the image of the result of an imagined experiment is the result of an experiment.

I looked this up yesterday, as I wanted to double check I had As if someone were to buy several copies of the morning paper to assure himself that what it said was true right before I used it as a joke in a WhatsApp message.

On rereading the whole passage though, it strikes me as generally relevant to the 21st century, skewering as it does the models that underlie what we read about climate change projections and COVID infection forecasts etc.

Thursday, December 01, 2022


Songbird was written in half an hour at 3am when she couldn’t sleep. She says: "Fortunately, I had a piano in my room [but] nothing to record it on, but I had to play this song. The whole song [came out] complete: chords, words, everything within half an hour. I couldn’t go to sleep in case I forgot it, so I had to play it all night long."

RIP Christine McVie. It was worth playing all night long.