Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Strength to strength

Known Paapa coming up seven years now.

Monday, November 13, 2023

My life

Wasn't well enough to go to this yesterday. Don't think I'll be well enough to go to the theatre tomorrow.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Getting Sentimental over you

I glanced a reference on these spindrift pages yesterday about going to the Jazz Voice Opening Gala on Friday. If you click the title above, it will take you to today's date's blog post for 2022. It is about watching Yolanda Charles at the same festival.

In 2021 I was at the First night of Zadie Smith's  The  Wife of Willesden at the Kiln Theatre. 2020 Ben came round. We shared food from Garfield and a case of Red Stripe, while listening to and jamming on old reggae tunes.

Etcetera, etcetera. Been doing so about half a decade now.

In retrospect, not such a bad old life.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Ah'm jess sayin' is all


Yesterday's poem was by John Burnside. He won The David Cohen Prize for Literature the day before yesterday, only a fortnight after making his debut on the 'blog.

I don't know anything of his but the poetry. Think I'll start the hinterland - other formats and styles - with 'I put a spell on you,' which also has curious resonances with last night's London Jazz Opening Gala.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Change of pace?

When all the books are gone, there will be

nothing to remember but a single

porch light at the far end of the road

where something live is moving in the snow,

a woman, or a fox, it’s hard to say.

Let's have a couple of literature days on the 'blog. I will clear up the poem above tomorrow.

Margery Kempe is honoured in the Church of England with a commemoration on 9 November (yesterday) and in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America together with Richard Rolle and Walter Hilton on 9 November. Nothing from us Catholics though.

An astounding debut, both epic and intimate, about grief, trauma, revelation, and the hidden lives of women - by a major new talent

In the year of 1413, two women meet for the first time in the city of Norwich.

Margery has left her fourteen children and husband behind to make her journey. Her visions of Christ – which have long alienated her from her family and neighbours, and incurred her husband’s abuse – have placed her in danger with the men of the Church, who have begun to hound her as a heretic.

Julian, an anchoress, has not left Norwich, nor the cell to which she has been confined, for twenty-­three years. She has told no one of her own visions – and knows that time is running out for her to do so.

The two women have stories to tell one another. Stories about girlhood, motherhood, sickness, loss, doubt and belief; revelations more the powerful than the world is ready to hear. Their meeting will change everything.

Sensual, vivid and humane, For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on My Little Pain cracks history open to reveal the lives of two extraordinary women.
This month's Audible voucher will go on Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

8:54 to spare Prime Minister?

A crumb of comfort from the, largely confected, row, and a timely reminder this is not a party political issue.

Pro-Palestinian Armistice Day march must go ahead, says Churchill’s grandson

Lord Soames, a former Armed Forces minister, said: “A lot of people died during the war to assert freedom”.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that the march can go ahead, despite fears that it could lead to counter-protests by Right-wing extremists, because the “evidence threshold” to ban it had not been met.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has described the protest plans as “provocative and disrespectful”, claiming they posed a risk that the Cenotaph could be vandalised.

Speaking to LBC, Lord Soames said: “It’s nowhere near the Cenotaph. It’s in the afternoon and most of these people, 90 per cent of those people, are not there to make trouble.

“They’re there to express a deeply held view. And I think it must be allowed to go ahead, and I think it would be a great mistake to play politics with it. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Whatever it is, I'm against it


The Metropolitan Police Service will protect Armistice and Remembrance events in London this weekend.

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "The events taking place this weekend are of great significance and importance to our nation. I completely recognise the significant public and political concern about the impact of ongoing protest and demonstrations on this moment of national reflection. Therefore I am determined we will do everything in our power to ensure they pass without disruption.

“The reason we have an independent police service is so that among debate, opinion, emotion and conflict, we stand in the centre, focused simply on the law and the facts in front of us.

“The laws created by Parliament are clear. There is no absolute power to ban protest, therefore there will be a protest this weekend.

“The law provides no mechanism to ban a static gathering of people. It contains legislation which allows us to impose conditions to reduce disruption and the risk of violence, and in the most extreme cases when no other tactics can work, for marches or moving protests to be banned.

“Many have called for us to use this power to ban a planned march by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign on Saturday.

“But the use of this power is incredibly rare and must be based on intelligence which suggests there will be a real threat of serious disorder and no other way for police to manage the event. The last time it was used was over a decade ago.

“Over recent weeks we’ve seen an escalation of violence and criminality by small groups attaching themselves to demonstrations, despite some key organisers working positively with us.

“But at this time, the intelligence surrounding the potential for serious disorder this weekend does not meet the threshold to apply for a ban.

“The organisers have shown complete willingness to stay away from the Cenotaph and Whitehall and have no intention of disrupting the nation’s remembrance events. Should this change, we’ve been clear we will use powers and conditions available to us to protect locations and events of national importance at all costs.

“Officers will continue to take swift and robust action against any breakaway groups or individuals intent on using legitimate, lawful protest for their own agenda through Saturday and Sunday.

“If over the next few days the intelligence evolves, and we reach a threshold where there is a real threat of serious disorder we will approach the Home Secretary. Right now, we remain focused on the facts in front of us and developing our plan to ensure the highest levels of protection for events throughout the weekend."

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner issued a statement last night, saying he cannot ban a pro-Palestinian protest on Armistice Day. 

He did this despite the Prime Minister saying that the planned protest should not go ahead; brave and noble. I am quick enough to to put Sir Mark Rowley down when I think he has gone wrong, so this morning he gets rare praise plus an acknowledgement his can't be an easy job.

Do you remember that my cousin invited me to Kenneth Branagh's Lear on Saturday afternoon, but I couldn't go because I was in Wales? "King Lear is cancelled so popped into Vanny's work canteen, the Crypt at St Martin in the Fields; then joined the march for peace in Palestine ...." she wrote. A wonderful illustration that not only stake-holders and raging woke loons feel strongly about this, which is a fact lost upon the Daily Telegraph.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Fitzcarraldo Editions

Jacques Testard and Fitzcarraldo staff in their Deptford office 
Fitzcarraldo Editions is an independent publisher specialising in contemporary fiction and long-form essays. Founded in 2014, it focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language. The series, designed by Ray O’Meara, are published as paperback originals with French flaps, using a custom serif typeface (called Fitzcarraldo). Fitzcarraldo Editions publishes, among other authors, the 2015, 2018, 2022 and 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature laureates Svetlana Alexievich, Olga Tokarczuk, Annie Ernaux and Jon Fosse. 

I am back in London. Vince gave me a lift. I went to see Sean yesterday morning. He told me his new novel, the one I helped with a tiny bit, is finished.

"Who are you going to send it to?"

"Jacques Testard, he was quite keen on 'The Englishwoman' but decided in the end it didn't quite fit with his imprint."

'The Englishwoman' was Sean's previous effort. Jacques' 'imprint' is Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Telegraph 6/10/23

If you’re a publisher, and four of your writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, you might be expected to be slightly blasé should a fifth scoop the same award. Jacques Testard, founder of the independent Fitzcarraldo Editions, is the only publisher in Britain who can confirm that this is not the case. When I speak to him on Friday, he’s overwhelmed.

The Norwegian novelist Jon Fosse, eight of whose books Fitzcarraldo has published in translation since 2018, has just won the 2023 Nobel. Fosse follows in the footsteps of four other Nobel Laureates published by Fitzcarraldo: last year’s winner, the French writer Annie Ernaux; Olga Tokarczuk, the writer and activist from Poland, who won in 2018; the Belarusian journalist-essayist Svetlana Alexievich, who won in 2015; and Elfriede Jelinek, the Austrian playwright and novelist who won in 2004 and subsequently joined Fitzcarraldo’s list too.

This is an astonishing hit-rate for any publisher. What makes it all the more remarkable is that Fitzcarraldo is a small independent firm, founded less than a decade ago. It has seven full-time staff, three of whom are editors, and publishes books at a modest rate: 23 this year. 

Not too shabby my old friend Mr Burke. Not too shabby at all.

Monday, November 06, 2023

Short but sweet

 Rayburn is flying in from Florida on 15 November. I do hop he can come to Cork with us, the following weekend.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth

Cousin Ria has offered me Aunt Philo's ticket for Lear Lear this afternoon. I'm very grateful but I can't make as I am in Wales.

Besides Branagh hasn't come to see me lately since I've been bad.

Ba Dum Tish!

Saturday, November 04, 2023

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width

Sean at 1pm yesterday the Vince and Michele took me to The Merchant of Venice 1936  at the New Theatre, Cardiff in the evening. Never mind reviews, when you feel as ropey as I do 'two hours including interval' is enough recommendation.

Friday, November 03, 2023

The Not Ready for Prime Time Players

The extent to which I have succeeded is debatable, but I genuinely have worked hard (passim) on trying to understand generative AI and Large Language Models and find myself more on the, say, Gary Marcus than the Geoff Hinton side of the debate, while respecting both.

Have an example from yesterday of why I remain among the rueful naysayers. 

"Where in London is Dance First playing?" I asked ChatGPT, via Bing, yesterday.

Dance First is a biographical film about the life and work of Samuel Beckett, the Nobel Prize-winning Irish playwright. It stars Aidan Gillen, Maxine Peake, Gabriel Byrne, and others. It is directed by James Marsh and has a running time of 100 minutes

According to my web search results, Dance First is playing at the following cinemas in London from Friday 3rd November to Thursday 9th November:


•  Cineworld Cinemas: Wandsworth https://firstdancelondon.co.uk/

You can find the exact showtimes and book tickets online by clicking on the links above. I hope you enjoy the film.

Try the link. That's right. It takes you to WEDDING DANCE LESSONS IN CENTRAL LONDON. Completely useless.

Have a conspiracy theory on me. 

Rishi Sunak's AI SAFETY SUMMIT, HOSTED BY THE UK, 1ST AND 2ND NOVEMBER AT BLETCHLEY PARK. Why and why now? Especially given that Larry, the British domestic tabby cat who has served as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at 10 Downing Street since probably knows more about AI than Rishi does.

The summit finished yesterday. What else finished yesterday? The latest round of public evidence to the UK Covid-19 Enquiry. We wake up to
Rishi Sunak: Inviting China to AI Summit was right long-term decision
when we could have woken up to
For the last three days the Covid inquiry had been like an out-of-control therapy session. The permanently trashed Party Marty. The foul-mouthed career sociopath Dominic Cummings. The caring, sharing Helen MacNamara. All competing with one another to expose the corruption and incompetence at the heart of Boris Johnson’s government during the Covid crisis. All desperate to pin the blame on someone other than themselves. All third-rate desperadoes in their tragicomic worlds.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Dannie Abse: Return to Cardiff

I hope to be off for a long family weekend visit later today.

‘Hometown’; well, most admit an affection for a city:

grey, tangled streets I cycled on to school, my first


in the back lane, and, fool, my first botched love affair.

First everything. Faded torments; self-indulgent pity.


The journey to Cardiff seemed less a return than a raid

on mislaid identities. Of course the whole locus smaller:

the mile-wide Taff now a stream, the castle not as in

     some black,

gothic dream, but a decent sprawl, a joker’s toy façade.


Unfocused voices in the wind, associations, clues,

odds and ends, fringes caught, as when, after the doctor


a door opened and I glimpsed the white, enormous face

of my grandfather, suddenly aghast with certain news.


Unable to define anything I can hardly speak,

and still I love the place for what I wanted it to be

as much as for what unashamedly is

now for me, a city of strangers, alien and bleak.


Unable to communicate I’m easily betrayed,

uneasily diverted by mere sense reflections

like those anchored waterscapes that wander, alter, in

      the Taff,

hour by hour, as light slants down a different shade.


Illusory, too, that lost dark playground after rain,

the noise of trams, gunshots in what they once called

     Tiger Bay.

Only real this smell of ripe, damp earth when the sun

       comes out,

a mixture of pungencies, half exquisite and half plain.


No sooner than I’d arrived the other Cardiff had gone,

smoke in the memory, these but tinned resemblances,

where the boy I was not and the man I am not

met, hesitated, left double footsteps, then walked on.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Pablo Neruda: Explico algunas cosas

Next translation project sorted. I imagine it may take a while.

PREGUNTARÉIS: Y dónde están las lilas?

Y la metafísica cubierta de amapolas?

Y la lluvia que a menudo golpeaba

sus palabras llenándolas

de agujeros y pájaros?

Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.

Yo vivía en un barrio

de Madrid, con campanas,

con relojes, con árboles.

Desde allí se veía

el rostro seco de Castilla

como un océano de cuero.

                                      Mi casa era llamada

la casa de las flores, porque por todas partes

estallaban geranios: era

una bella casa

con perros y chiquillos.

                                                        Raúl, te acuerdas?

Te acuerdas, Rafael?

                               Federico, te acuerdas

debajo de la tierra,

te acuerdas de mi casa con balcones en donde

la luz de junio ahogaba flores en tu boca?

                                                   Hermano, hermano!


eran grandes voces, sal de mercaderías,

aglomeraciones de pan palpitante,

mercados de mi barrio de Argüelles con su estatua

como un tintero pálido entre las merluzas:

el aceite llegaba a las cucharas,

un profundo latido

de pies y manos llenaba las calles,

metros, litros, esencia

aguda de la vida,

                        pescados hacinados,

contextura de techos con sol frío en el cual

la flecha se fatiga,

delirante marfil fino de las patatas,

tomates repetidos hasta el mar.

Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo

y una mañana las hogueras

salían de la tierra

devorando seres,

y desde entonces fuego,

pólvora desde entonces,

y desde entonces sangre.

Bandidos con aviones y con moros,

bandidos con sortijas y duquesas,

bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo

venían por el cielo a matar niños,

y por las calles la sangre de los niños

corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.

Chacales que el chacal rechazaría,

piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo,

víboras que las víboras odiaran!

Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre

de España levantarse

para ahogaros en una sola ola

de orgullo y de cuchillos!



mirad mi casa muerta,

mirad España rota:

pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo

en vez de flores,

pero de cada hueco de España

sale España,

pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos,

pero de cada crimen nacen balas

que os hallarán un día el sitio

del corazón.

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía

no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas,

de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles,

venid a ver

la sangre por las calles,

venid a ver la sangre

por las calles!

Tuesday, October 31, 2023


Future perfect, present tense,

Past continuous.

In the lane that’s by the church,

St Joseph’s, that is,

I can feel the sacristy;


“What is that, a sacristy, 

You old altar boy?”

The holy things are stored there,

Until we need them.

“Date and the time of this need?

Who’s allowed inside?”


Monday, October 30, 2023

the best time to plant a tree is always twenty years ago

If there is one complaint about the Jazz Café's  Havana Música on Saturday it is that Jane and Ben weren't all that impressed with their food (miso marinated monkfish with curried rice, coriander & chilli, and jerk chicken with rice and peas, pickles & jerk bbq sauce  respectively).

Eat your way around the world in London went to the Cubana restaurant seventeen years ago and seems to have had a good time (see Icons passim).

Maybe we should add https://www.cubana.co.uk/, as well as catching up with the Chef movie, to any follow up.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

I Like it Like That

Jane, Ben, Simona and I had a wonderful time watching Havana Música with Carlos Miguel Y Su Dimension de Cuba from the mezzanine restaurant at the Jazz Cafe last night. I was beyond flattered that Simona took the time off work to come with us when she didn't even do that for the Saturday of her own birthday. By locking in rest before the big night (prehab?) I managed to walk to the tube for quarter to seven and get home more than five hours later having eaten a starter as a main course and drunk a few glasses of wine. Unheard of stamina and appetite for me lately.

Ben, as I am, is a big fan of John Favreau's movie 'Chef.' I kept thinking of it last night As Sofía Vergara's father's character in it is a Cuban musician performing in one scene in a club not unlike the JC. Actually the whole film is resonant, including a Miami to Nawlins road trip not unlike one for me, Ben and Raybs that l've got a bucket list version of.

I may watch it again later while trying to stuff a counterfeit Cubana panini down my gob.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Then I was back in October

There's a new edition of Jonathan Holloway (Icons passim) and Liam Grundy's podcast out. When I got home yesterday I drew the curtains, kicked off my shoes and lay on the couch to listen to it.
Walking Out: A wide-ranging discussion rarely touching on the pressing matters of the day. Social, Sexual, Psychological and Political matters are never intentionally on the agenda.
Seventeen minutes of guileless, prelapsarian bliss.

Compare and contrast. Ben Jamal, Steve and Rebecca's friend, is the Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Here's what he was tweeting later the same night.
Both in the same world. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Friday, October 27, 2023

One Day in Gaza

From Olly Lambert on Vimeo.

I thought enough time had passed to send Hannah a sympathetic note about Palestine without it seeming intrusive, and received a typically gracious and generous reply.

My email included an apology for, my all but complete, ignorance of the region's history and circumstances. I told her that until I looked at Gaza on Google Maps, I had no idea it was on the Mediterranean coast and asked her to imagine what this implies about everything else that has passed me, and my peers, by. All we can do is plead with her people not to despise us when our self-styled cognoscenti, start holding forth advising her people from this deep well of ignorance. 

I mentioned this in passing to Sean, who also knows her. He owned up as well, saying:
I only found out about Gaza’s location because a former student of mine, now an award-winning documentary maker called Olly Lambert made a film about The Day of Peace there a few years ago.
Maybe there's a lesson here about civilised and constructive conversations; own up pre-emptively in one's arguments to one's blind spots.

Thursday, October 26, 2023


Have I found a poet new to me, contemporary and yet good in McSWEENEY’S of all places?

Lately, there’s been a glitch in the present tense,

the blackbird calling from the holly tree

and that frost-scent on the wind in late July,

a spindrift from the east that finds me out

as stranger to the soul

I took for granted …

Give me a little less

with every dawn:

colour, a breath of wind,

the perfection of shadows,

till what I find, I find

because it’s there,

gold in the seams of my hands,

and the night light, burning.

Give me these years again and I will

spend them wisely.

Done with the compass; done, now, with the chart.

The ferry at the dock, lit

stern to prow,

the next life like a footfall in my heart.

Or is it just that I am a miserable bastard lately? We can find out kicking off from here, I guess.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023


The woman who, in the process of being released, stepped back to take the Hamas' guard hand and say "Shalom" is what inspired yesterday's post. It changed Levinas' "The Other precisely reveals himself in his alterity not in a shock negating the I, but as the primordial phenomenon of gentleness," from sounding pretentious to a blissful truth.

As ever lately, we landed with a bump. When I played the video I had embedded on the blog post back, I found that The Times had edited this gesture of hope out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Bearing Witness


In the 1950s, Levinas emerged from the circle of intellectuals surrounding the philosopher Jean Wahl as a leading French thinker. His work is based on the ethics of the Other or, in Levinas's terms, on "ethics as first philosophy". For Levinas, the Other is not knowable and cannot be made into an object of the self, as is done by traditional metaphysics (which Levinas called "ontology"). Levinas prefers to think of philosophy as the "wisdom of love" rather than the "love of wisdom" (the usual translation of the Greek "φιλοσοφία"). In his view, responsibility towards the Other precedes any "objective searching after truth".

Levinas derives the primacy of his ethics from the experience of the encounter with the Other. For Levinas, the irreducible relation, the epiphany, of the face-to-face, the encounter with another, is a privileged phenomenon in which the other person's proximity and distance are both strongly felt. "The Other precisely reveals himself in his alterity not in a shock negating the I, but as the primordial phenomenon of gentleness."


Monday, October 23, 2023

The Revolutionary Catechism

The Duties of the Revolutionary toward Himself

  1. The revolutionary is a doomed man. He has no personal interests, no business affairs, no emotions, no attachments, no property, and no name. Everything in him is wholly absorbed in the single thought and the single passion for revolution.
  2. The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.
  3. The revolutionary despises all doctrines and refuses to accept the mundane sciences, leaving them for future generations. He knows only one science: the science of destruction. For this reason, but only for this reason, he will study mechanics, physics, chemistry, and perhaps medicine. But all day and all night he studies the vital science of human beings, their characteristics and circumstances, and all the phenomena of the present social order. The object is perpetually the same: the surest and quickest way of destroying the whole filthy order.
  4. The revolutionary despises public opinion. He despises and hates the existing social morality in all its manifestations. For him, morality is everything which contributes to the triumph of the revolution. Immoral and criminal is everything that stands in its way.
  5. The revolutionary is a dedicated man, merciless toward the State and toward the educated classes; and he can expect no mercy from them. Between him and them there exists, declared or concealed, a relentless and irreconcilable war to the death. He must accustom himself to torture.
  6. Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, one consolation, one reward, one satisfaction – the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim – merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.
  7. The nature of the true revolutionary excludes all sentimentality, romanticism, infatuation, and exaltation. All private hatred and revenge must also be excluded. Revolutionary passion, practiced at every moment of the day until it becomes a habit, is to be employed with cold calculation. At all times, and in all places, the revolutionary must obey not his personal impulses, but only those which serve the cause of the revolution.

Hamas didn't make it up.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Nice One Cyril

I missed Gary Marcus' keynote* at the 'Chat GPT and Other Creative Rivals' conference I attended in the middle of the year. I am disappointed about that now that he has started throwing shade at the UK's upcoming vainglorious AI Safety Summit; something that has also been on my to-do list.

Telegraph (paywall):

Meet the AI heretic battling the hype with a warning for Rishi Sunak

Tech expert Gary Marcus is the dissenting voice in a clamour of paranoia and veneration

In a fortnight, the UK’s AI Safety Summit will assemble the great and the good of artificial intelligence, in the hope of creating an international “Bretton Woods”-style agreement to regulate it. Although he was one of three experts invited to give testimony to the United States Congress on AI regulation, alongside OpenAI founder Sam Altman, Marcus hasn’t been invited to Buckinghamshire. He isn’t surprised that his views aren’t welcome. 

“Generative AI can’t live up to the current expectations,” he says. “It’s simply not smart enough to do many of the things we think it will be able to do. The systems are not transparent, they’re not reliable, they don’t really understand the world. These are very serious problems that are not being faced.” 

Such talk makes him a heretic, and pointing out some very inconvenient truths is not universally welcome. Marcus explains these flaws very elegantly: for years he was The New Yorker magazine’s go-to guy to explain developments in neuroscience and data. Guitar Zero, his book explaining how the brain learns, based on his own initially hopeless quest to master a musical instrument, became a bestseller.

It's his guitar book that interests me today though after John and I spent some time noodling around yesterday, so I've dropped a credit on the Audible version. Maybe my brother and I can listen next time we're driving to or from Cardiff.

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, a professor of no discernible musical talent learns to play the guitar and investigates how anyone of any age might master a new skill.

Just about every human being knows how to listen to music, but what does it take to make music? Is musicality something we are born with? Or a skill that anyone can develop at any time? If you don't start piano at the age of six, is there any hope? Is skill learning best left to children or can anyone reinvent him-or herself at any time?

On the eve of his fortieth birthday, Gary Marcus, an internationally renowned scientist with no discernible musical talent, becomes his own guinea pig to look at how human beings become musical- and how anyone of any age can master something new. Guitar Zero traces his journey, what he learned, and how you can learn, too. In addition to being a groundbreaking look at the origins and allure of music, Marcus's journey is also an empowering tale of the mind's plasticity.

In a quest that takes him from Suzuki classes to guitar gods, Marcus investigates the most effective ways to train your brain and body to learn to play an instrument. How can you make your practice more deliberate and effective? How can you find the best music teacher for you or your child? Does talent really exist? Or is hard work all you need?

Guitar Zero stands the science of music on its head, debunking the popular theory of an innate musical instinct and many other commonly held fallacies. At the same time, it raises new questions about the science of human pleasure and brings new insight into humankind's most basic question: what counts as a life well lived? Does one have to become the next Jimi Hendrix to make a passionate pursuit worthwhile? Or can the journey itself bring the brain lasting satisfaction?

For those who have ever set out to learn a musical instrument-or wishes that they could- Guitar Zero is an inspiring and fascinating look at music, learning, and the pursuit of a well-lived life.

* Keynote

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Hold the front page

My brother arrived on a visit yesterday. He has gone back now.

Friday, October 20, 2023

What is a podcast and how does it work?

The setting for so many of the Arabian Nights, like the stories of Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or Aladdin, Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age had a shimmering image, a dimension of mystery and wonder… Join Tom and Dominic in the final part of our series on the history of Baghdad, as they explore the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, and the city of Caliphs, Hadiths, thieves, and of course, pigeon racing!
The Balfour Declaration was published on the 9th November 1917. It stated the intent of the British government to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This week, William and Anita are joined by Tom Segev to discuss the declaration and the ensuing British mandate for Palestine.

Goalhanger Podcasts continues to come up with the goods when it comes to background reading for the WhatsApp group Peter, Helen, John, Frankie and I are on.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Hailed as one of the world’s masterpieces of psychological realism, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high-court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise, he is brought face-to-face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

The first part of the story portrays Ivan Ilyich’s colleagues and family after he has died, as they discuss the effect of his death on their careers and fortunes. In the second part, Tolstoy reveals the life of the man whose death seems so trivial. The perfect bureaucrat, Ilyich treasured his orderly domestic and office routine. Diagnosed with an incurable illness, he at first denies the truth but is influenced by the simple acceptance of his servant boy, and he comes to embrace the boy’s belief that death is natural and not shameful. He comforts himself with happy memories of childhood and gradually realizes that he has ignored all his inner yearnings as he tried to do what was expected of him. Will Ilyich be able to come to terms with himself before his life ebbs away?

This short novel was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s own life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina, during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.
Some days the 'blog practically writes itself eh? Guess my latest Audible credit went.

I've got a biopsy lunchtime today.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Angels With Dirty Faces


I did Chemical Engineering in University. All except for one afternoon when I bunked off and went along to American Studies because they were showing a double bill of To Have and Have Not and Angels With Dirty Faces.

Redemption is ever at hand if we only have the courage, and the humility, to seize it. Discuss.

Last verse

What now? It is not practical I know.

To cast a loaded dice for one more throw.

No, no; a beautiful, a hopeless stand

What is this horde? I shall not stay my hand.

I know you now, old foes, old enemies!

Dissembling, Prejudice and Treacheries!

Deception! Here's my sword's point, ask no truce.

I fight and will die fighting. No excuse.

Take what you will, you send me to repose.

Take all; the prize, the laurel and the rose.

You've done your worst and yet I still retain,

Respect you cannot strip me of or stain.

And when I leave tonight to meet my Lord

If heaven's azure vault's not my reward.

And all I left behind on earth was ash

Despite you all I kept, and keep still my .... panache!

What with one thing and another, I've been quoting my own version of Cyrano de Bergerac to myself lately. Rendering José Martí's Cuba Nos Une into English on Sunday reminded me that I have found the way I compile these translations quite educational, so I thought I would share it.

Cuba nos une en extranjero suelo,

Auras de Cuba nuestro amor desea:

Cuba es tu corazón, Cuba es mi cielo,

Cuba en tu libro mi palabra sea.


Cuba unite us, on foreign soil

Cuba the heartbeat, let love uncoil

Cuba your centre, Cuba my sky

Cuba in your book, my word, my sigh

I got a plain vanilla literal English version from Google Translate, then tried to polish it up. What is interesting I think, at least it is to me, is that I went from an alternating line rhyming scheme to couplets and from a freer to a strict nine syllable (five then four) metre without consciously deciding to do it all. Not unlike Cyrano's last words which morphed from the original twelve syllable alexandrine to pentameter. Perhaps it is to do with being steeped in, rather than educated about, English poetry?

Monday, October 16, 2023

Times change, people change, but some things will always stay the same.

Ben and Jane are flying to Florida today to visit Rayburn and his family. They came round with Simona last night and we went to Venus, as it is a bit quieter than the Standard or the Charles Holden. It was Simona's birthday on Saturday, and she had to finish her evening shift before she could get out, with Ben and their friends, celebrating that.

All of which makes it pretty unlikely she will be able to make the Camden Jazz Café with us at the end of the month (passim). I think I will offer her place, if that comes to pass, to old muso-chum Andy M. The universe sent me the message. I had mentioned to Ben in the Holden on Thursday, that Jane, I Andy and his Sarah went to the Jazz Café together years ago to see Boz Scaggs. When Ben went off to the gents I took a look at my phone and there was a WhatsApp on it from Mr Mulford recommending a drummer called Yusef Dayes. Some things never change.

Would love to get Thump The Clouds back in the studio one more time.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Cuba Nos Une

Myself: Cuba nos une en extranjero suelo,

Auras de Cuba nuestro amor desea:

Cuba es tu corazón, Cuba es mi cielo,

Cuba en tu libro mi palabra sea.

Prodnose: Eh?

Myself (distractedly): José Martí, Cuban poet and essayist, patriot and martyr. I've dashed off my own English version if you're interested.

Prodnose (unenthused): Ummmm ...

Myself: Cuba unite us, on foreign soil

Cuba the heartbeat, let love uncoil

Cuba your centre, Cuba my sky

Cuba in your book, my word, my sigh

A treasured development of 2023, at least for me, has been the emergence of a monthly night out for Jane, Ben and I (plus Simona when she can make it). Generally we alternate a pizza at Corleone with an action movie at Wimbledon Odeon followed by Mexican food at Wahaca.

No reason, given my diagnosis, not to punch it up a little. I've long fancied the view overlooking the stage from the Camden Jazz Café mezzanine restaurant. Hey Presto! A table for four is booked; Havana Música with Carlos Miguel Y Su Dimension de Cuba on Saturday 28th October.

I found this YouTube video looking for Carlos Miguel. Pretty much what we will see from our vantage point I think.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Negative Capability

Last night's unused ticket was for Burnt at the Stake, or The Whole of The Truth at the Globe Theatre. I just couldn't face it after the week I've had. I was going because it was co-curated by Hannah Khalil, a Palestinian/Irish writer and acquaintance. I wonder if she could face it after the week she's had?

The 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals are with us today. Wales kick off against Argentina at 4pm, and Ireland against the All Blacks at 8. In previous years I would have been down my local from mid afternoon until last orders. Not today.

AFC Wimbledon kick off at home against Bradford City at 3, so that is where most of my season ticket holding friends will be. If they get to the Standard for, say, 5 I can join them for Wales' second half before going home.
I have drunk ale from the Country of the Young
And weep because I know all things now:
I have been a hazel tree and they hung
The Pilot Star and the Crooked Plough
Among my leaves in times out of mind:
I became a rush that horses tread:
I became a man, a hater of the wind,
Knowing one, out of all things, alone, that his head
Would not lie on the breast or his lips on the hair
Of the woman that he loves, until he dies;
Although the rushes and the fowl of the air
Cry of his love with their pitiful cries
Prodnose: Well that's chirpy.
Myself (with some little dignity): 'Mongan Thinks Of His Past Greatness' by William Butler Yeats is not aiming for 'chirpy.'

Friday, October 13, 2023

More matter with less art

I found out at a hospital appointment on Wednesday afternoon that the CT scan I had on Sunday October the first revealed I have pancreatic cancer and that it has spread to some other organs. I also have a blood clot in one lung.

Medics will be meeting in St George's hospital today to decide my recommended treatment so I will probably find out what it is next week.

I have delayed posting about it here as I wanted to make sure I had sat down with the son and heir for a good face to face discussion before letting people know in general, and he and I had already agreed that we would meet socially last night.

Prodnose: Well it's to the point, I'll say that for it.

Thursday, October 12, 2023


There's a BUILDHOLLYWOOD billboard just past the junction with Blackshaw Road that I take when I am walking to St George's.

For some reason lately, it is covered with a montage of posters celebrating something called the Welsh Ballroom Community.

Even on  a day when Wales beat Gibraltar 4-0 in a friendly it seems like a bizarre thing to come across in South West London.

Prodnose: But a good excuse for sidestepping why you were going to the hospital.

Myself: That too ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Form is temporary, class is permanent

"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."

A beautiful gesture of respect for Portugal, who had just beaten them, from Fiji in the rugby world cup. To the shoulder shruggers, this: 

 "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."

 "Eyeless, in Gaza, at the mill, with slaves," quoted Peter today. Milton's Samson Agonistes is indeed horribly pertinent to what is unfolding in Gaza and Israel. Thanatos; the unconscious death wish, autographs the scene with innocent blood.

Why was my breeding ordered and prescribed

As of a person separate to God,

Designed for great exploits, if I must die

Betrayed, captived, and both my eyes put out,

Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,

To grind in brazen fetters under task

With this heaven-gifted strength? O glorious strength,

Put to the labour of a beast, debased

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Gender Unicorn

Well that's my next tattoo sorted.
I don't want to write anything here that will identify the chap in question, but- for goodness sake, what kind of smirking, unserious reaction do you think you are going to get from a class of teenage boys if you ask them to "fill out your own Gender Unicorn"?  My best guess would be sniggering and 'word on the street' suggests I'm right. Fashion is one of the most powerful forces in the world. The pendulum swings one way and then back almost as far the other way. Force this stuff down the throats of thirteen year olds and five years from now you will be confronting unreconstructed Andrew Tates.

I need to understand what is going on the country and the world a little better.  Shall I invest an Audible credit in Time to Think, The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children by Hannah Barnes? 

I wonder what Steve will make of that?

Then again I seem to recall that the first time I met him I was reading C. J. Chivers' THE GUN The Story of the AK-47 and I don't recall him concluding from that that I was potentially a loon but a hairsbreadth away from Lee Harvey Oswald.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Ostrich Pillow

There's no point hiding from it. If I can get the kick off of Wales' last pool game wrong (passsim), I can potentially get their quarter final wrong.

So here, from the horse's mouth, are the fixtures:

Saturday, 14 October

QF1 - 16:00: Wales v Argentina - Stade de Marseille
QF2 - 20:00: Ireland v New Zealand - Stade de France, Saint Denis

Sunday, 15 October

QF3 - 16:00: England v Fiji - Stade de Marseille
QF4 - 20:00: France v South Africa - Stade de France, Saint Denis

Granted, the tournament itself published them in Central European Summer Time so I have had to convert them to British Summer Time, but I suppose that's kinda the point of the exercise.

If we beat Argentina, we will meet the winner of Ireland versus the All Blacks: Friday, 20 October 20:00 our time.

Lose that and we will be in the Bronze Final: Friday, 27 October 20:00 our time.

Win though, and we will be in the Final itself: Saturday 28 October 20:00 our time. And yes indeed it will be our time that has come.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Too little too late

I weigh nine stone ten today. This is getting ridiculous.

I was too tired and listless to go and see ABBA Voyage last night. Granted, of all the things I have tickets for, this is the one that will be exactly the same if I do manage to catch it again, but - once more - getting ridiculous.

I missed the Wales Georgia World cup rugby. Got it in my head it was on at 2pm today not Saturday. This is getting ridiculous.

Maybe it is time to own up to myself that I am really not well?

Saturday, October 07, 2023

Select your Budweiser Goal of the Month

Friday, October 06, 2023

Mia Anarchy

Mia told me on Monday that she has made a short film 'Satisfaction' with the girl who won 'Best Supporting Performer in a play' at the 2023 WhatsOnStage awards for her portrayal of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and that - now that it is done - omertà is over and it can be talked about. I asked Bing GPT about it.

What do you know about 'Satisfaction' a 2023 short film with Gwyneth Keyworth?

Based on the web search results, here is what I know about 'Satisfaction' a 2023 short film with Gwyneth Keyworth:

•  'Satisfaction' is a British short film directed by James Watkins and written by Nick Hornby. It stars Gwyneth Keyworth as Lucy, a young woman who works as a sex therapist and tries to help her clients achieve satisfaction in their relationships. However, she struggles with her own personal issues and dissatisfaction with her boyfriend 1.

•  The film is a comedy-drama that explores the themes of love, sex, communication, and happiness. It also features some musical elements, as Lucy sings some songs that express her feelings and thoughts. The film has been praised for its witty and realistic dialogue, its charming and relatable characters, and its original and catchy soundtrack 2.

•  The film was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Short Film in 2023, but lost to 'The Present' by Jacob Frey. It also won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the London Film Festival in 2023 3 4.

•  Gwyneth Keyworth is a Welsh actress who has appeared in various films, television shows, and theatre productions. She is best known for her roles in 'Misfits', 'Doctor Thorne', 'Hidden', and 'The Great'. She won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Performer in a Play in 2023 for her portrayal of Scout in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre 5.

The answer is a complete load of hallucinatory rubbish.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

The Reversal Curse

Some of the latest AI research projects address a fundamental issue in the performance of large auto-regressive language models (LLMs) such as GPT-3 and GPT-4. This issue, referred to as the “Reversal Curse,” pertains to the model’s ability to generalize information learned during training. Specifically, when these models are trained on sentences following the format “A is B,” they often struggle to automatically reverse this information to answer questions in the format “B is A.” This limitation points to a deficiency in logical deduction and generalization, which are critical for these models to understand and respond accurately to various types of queries. 

At present, there is no established method or framework to completely mitigate the Reversal Curse in auto-regressive LLMs. The research aims to identify and characterize this limitation, shedding light on the challenges it poses to language models. While there have been studies focusing on the influence of training data on LLMs and how they store and recall facts, addressing the Reversal Curse remains an ongoing challenge.
Aristotle, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

Bear this in mind the next time you hear someone getting carried away by the possibilities of generative AI, or being dismissive of the drawbacks.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Blink and you'll miss it

AncestryDNA have done their annual Ethnicity Estimate update. I am now 97% Ireland, 2% Scotland, and 1% Sardinia. Last year I was 98% Irish, 2% Scottish, and <1% Sardinian. 

The broad and relentless march of science, eh?

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

patient portal

 Dear Nicholas,

This is a message from St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

You will receive a letter by post shortly regarding your new appointment or change to an existing appointment.

You can now manage your letters and appointments online via the hospital's patient portal.

Please register online at https://patients.stgeorges.nhs.uk/token/NP3vPoUFT4

To opt-out of these messages send PORTAL STGH STOP to 62277

This could be useful enough, but there is no appointment information in it before my procedure on Wednesday.

I had hoped it might give me a clue about the Thursday 28 September 2023 9:00 am telephone appointment (Clinic: 2WW Gastroenterology (Triage Service) University Hospital - RJ7) that didn't happen when they didn't call but no such luck (passim).

I mustn't let that slide despite everything else that is going on.

Monday, October 02, 2023

Where the 'Wood, where the 'Wood, where the 'Wood at?

: But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honour—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honour in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks—that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.

Prodnose: In case you are wondering why there is a blue Toyota in George’s garden, a bloke hit it in his car at 60mph about 5:30 this morning. The police arrested him. He was wasted, they found cider, cannabis and crack in the car.

Myself: Thanks.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

Don't frighten the horses

I have CAT scans of my chest, abdomen and pelvis scheduled  for twenty past nine this morning at Queen Mary's Hospital in Roehampton; two hour fast before.

There is more to write here but I am redacting that content until later this evening as there is a potential social occasion I do not want it to overshadow.

My mobile rang while I was walking down the High Street yesterday afternoon and my colonoscopy is also now booked; quarter to two in the Endoscopy department in St George's on Tuesday.

There were two follow up texts:

1. Appointment booked on 04/10/2023 @13:45
Please collect your laxatives from:
Endoscopy Unit,
1st Floor, St James' Wing,
St George's Hospital,
SW17 0QT

2. Please follow following instructions:
Fasting for 24 hours(with no food), can have water.
Low fibre diet for 3 days before appointment.
Please take laxatives in two parts. First part afternoon of previous day and second part morning on the day of procedure.

My niece Mia is flying in from Nepal and staying with me tonight before an audition tomorrow. The timings, both of today's arrival and tomorrow's appointment are still uncertain, but ideally she, I, Ben and Simona (who I don't think she has ever met) will go out to Corleone tonight.

I am typing this morning but won't publish until this evening as none of them officially know, though won't have failed to notice I am three stone lighter than this time last year, that I am under medical care. It's not a secret and they don't read the spindrift pages, but people they know might and I don't want to chance a less than jolly atmosphere.

Here is NHS 'Colonoscopy diet advice and bowel preparation.' Looking at the Corleone menu, I reckon I can eat garlic bread followed by risotto di mare and drink white wine tonight and stay within the low fibre diet guidelines without drawing attention to myself.

As for the day itself I have opted for the sedatives and cancelled the night's theatre. If sedated I will need someone to pick me up and take me home afterwards. Ollie and Andy Tea will do this. He will come in and collect me while she waits in the car. Probably wisest I think to take all of Wednesday and Thursday off work.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Hakawatis (Episode 36)

I stumbled on this podcast featuring Hannah when I was looking for something else. If I leave it dangling - hiding in plain site - here, perhaps I will remember to listen to it the next time I am on a long enough drive.

Friday, September 29, 2023

'One has a right to Bunbury anywhere one chooses.'

As of Tuesday all l I had in the showbiz diary next week was ABBA Voyage (Icons passim) on Saturday.

Wednesday morning Ria invited me, via Facebook, to The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria at the Arcola on Friday.

Wednesday evening, Vera invited me, via Telegram, to The Importance of Being Earnest at the Chelsea Theatre on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Mia my neice WhatsApped ' I have an audition on 2nd October in London and am coming back from Nepal - I was wondering if I could stay with you for a night?'

Mi casa, su casa.  The smell of greasepaint, the roar of the crowd.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Pendant Bail

Deep breath, at the second time of asking, my PICKRING Eye-Shaped Guitar Pick Holder Necklace Storage Pendant has arrived from the USA. The first one was lost in transit.

Jane has said she can use her jewellery skills, along with magical things called pendant bails, to arrange it, and the other 'objects of power' I habitually wear around my neck, so that they are separated rather than all clumped together at the top of my sternum. I arranged them and took a photo for her by way of illustration.

The gold crucifix in the middle was given to me by mum and dad on my 21st birthday. I like the way that the plectrum in the guitar pick pendant underneath it looks like stained glass.

To the left is a Moslem Sufi winged heart; to the right a Zen Buddhist Ensō. Reminders both that there is so little wisdom in the world that we should take it wherever we can find it.

I used also to wear a silver plectrum illustrated with a Hindu aum, as well as the masks of tragedy and comedy but I lost them in Bronwydd Avenue. They are honoured in absentia here as a nod to time, fate and change.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

This show will run and run.

An appointment is now booked for you as shown below.

Date: Thursday 28 September 2023 at 9:00 am

Clinic: 2WW Gastroenterology (Triage Service) University Hospital - RJ7

Note: This is a telephone/video appointment, you do not need to go to the clinic.

During the telephone assessment the Clinical Nurse Specialist will decide which diagnostic test is most suitable based on referral information. These include:

  • colonoscopy
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy or
  • CT colonography

This test date/time will be agreed with the patient over the phone during the telephone assessment and they will be given instructions re: light diet & bowel prep. This test will be carried out within 14 working days.

Now you know as much as I do. Watch this space.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The more things change...

The new establishment has taken leave of what passes for its senses over the last day or two, with the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police all but competing to see who can placate the Scotland Yard officers who handed in their weapons following a force marksman being charged with murder the most cravenly.

The decision about the charge followed an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). These are the official bodies whose role it is to hold the force and its officers to account. I don't have any knowledge of, or insight into, the shooting of Chris Kaba but is it being suggested that the IOPC and CPS aren't performing their duties diligently? If not let justice follow its course.

A note on context: The largest armed police unit in the UK is the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection, in which Wayne Couzens and David Carrick served.

David Carrick joined the Met in 2001 and was selected in 2009 to carry a gun and guard parliamentary and diplomatic sites.

In sentencing him for 85 serious offences during 17-year campaign of terror and attacks against women, the judge noted that in one attack – the first he was sentenced for – he told a woman she was safe with him because he was a police officer, before raping her while holding a firearm to her head. In other attacks, he used police-issue handcuffs to restrain the women, and sent a photo of his police gun to another, warning her: “Remember I’m the boss.”

Wayne Couzens used his handcuffs in the abduction of Sarah Everard. Is it seriously being suggested, under pressure from armed police that there are no longer systemic problems with them?

Just join the dots Sir Mark, mate. It ain't all that difficult. A fortnight ago (a fortnight!), you were saying just the opposite. What changed?

Monday, September 25, 2023

Wales 40-6 Australia

Sometimes comment is superfluous.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

I Loves The 'Diff

1. Shirley Road (Icons passim) with Sean on Friday evening with Sean followed by dinner at Lake Spice. This will probably be our last Cardiff Street Art jaunt of the year as I only get back from London once a month or so and the nights are drawing in. Whispering walls; Shirley Road has got its own YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@ShirleyRoad.

2. 'Check tyre pressures' said the car's on board computer on Saturday, putting me in something of a quandary as I was busy all day with family stuff and have  drive back to Hammersmith first thing this morning. and the man who wouldn't take any money. Dean of First Response Tyres came round, sorted me out and refused to take any money because no parts were required, and I'd paid him for and to fit a new tyre the time before last when I was back.
O brave new world, That has such people in't.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

“Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.”

Prodnose: The title above is one of these secret message things I suppose, intelligible to a select coterie, possibly resonant for you when revisited in some tranquil future, yet opaque to the great unwashed? 

Myself (settling into armchair and lighting pipe): It could be. Unless of course, rather than a reference to my circumstances, it is reminding us that a new film 'Dance First', directed by James Marsh and starring Gabriel Byrne as Samuel Beckett will be with us on November the third.

ESTRAGON: Il pourrait peut-ȇtre danser d'abord et penser ensuite? Si ce n'est pas trop lui demander.
VLADIMIR [à Pozzo]: Est-ce possible?
POZZO: Mais certainement, rien de plus facile. C'est d'ailleur l'ordre naturel. [Rire bref.]

Myself: But Beckett himself renders it in English as follows:

ESTRAGON: Perhaps he could dance first and think afterwards, if it isn’t too much to ask him
VLADIMIR [to Pozzo]: Would that be possible?
POZZO: By all means, nothing simpler. It’s the natural order. [He laughs briefly.]

Prodnose: Someone comes along, and scoops the first phrase out of its deontic modality (which the infinitive prevents one from doing in the French). Thus reduced to the imperative mood, it is paired it with the second phrase and a shitty Beckett-as-Fred-Astaire quote is born.

Myself: Yes. “Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.” as an arch reference to my life is already reduced to a mistranslation; a forgotten redaction. You are putty in my hands.


Looking through my old version (Icons passim) of the panache speech from Cryano I noticed I was a vowel short in the penultimate line. Thus, given my mood, it has had a little rejig to emphasise my defiance.

What now? It is not practical I know.

To cast a loaded dice for one more throw.

No, no; a beautiful, a hopeless stand

What is this horde? I shall not stay my hand.

I know you now, old foes, old enemies!

Dissembling, Prejudice and Treacheries!

Deception! Here's my sword's point, ask no truce.

I fight and will die fighting. No excuse.

Take what you will, you send me to repose

Beyond the prize, the laurel and the rose.

You've done your worst and yet I still retain,

Respect you cannot strip me of or stain.

And when I leave tonight to meet my Lord

If heaven's azure vault's not my reward,

And all I left behind on earth was ash.

Despite you all I kept, and keep still my .... panache!

Friday, September 22, 2023

Quantum poetics

How Borges and Heisenberg converged on the notion that language both enables and interferes with our grasp of reality
This is a terrific article with wide potential applicability. The Rigor of Angels; Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality by William Egginton is already in the running for next month's Audible credit.

Indeed, William Egginton seems like an interesting fella in general.

I am going to Cardiff this afternoon so I will see Sean this evening. I am pretty sure that Funes the Memorious, the short story by Jorge Luis Borges that the first part of Quantum poetics devotes itself to also features in his Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern - A Reader, but I am too lazy to check just now.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Politics on the Edge: A Memoir from Within

From the former Conservative Cabinet minister and co-presenter of 2022's breakout hit podcast The Rest is Politics, a searing insider's account of ten extraordinary years in Parliament

Over the course of a decade from 2010, Rory Stewart went from being a political outsider to standing for prime minister - before being sacked from a Conservative Party that he had come to barely recognise.

Tackling ministerial briefs on flood response and prison violence, engaging with conflict and poverty abroad as a foreign minister, and Brexit as a Cabinet minister, Stewart learned first-hand how profoundly hollow and inadequate our democracy and government had become. Cronyism, ignorance and sheer incompetence ran rampant. Around him, individual politicians laid the foundations for the political and economic chaos of today.

Stewart emerged battered but with a profound affection for his constituency of Penrith and the Border, and a deep direct insight into the era of populism and global conflict.

Politics On the Edge invites us into the mind of one of the most interesting actors on the British political stage. Uncompromising, candid and darkly humorous, this is his story of the challenges, absurdities and realities of political life; a new classic of political memoir and a remarkable portrait of our age.

This month's Audible credit has gone on the new book by Rory Stewart; WBI man crush - (see Icons passim) for twelve years now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

One for the bucket list

Did you know that there exists a remarkable walking route spanning the globe? Starting from Cape Town in South Africa and culminating in Magadan, Russia, it presents the longest continuous distance that can be covered on foot without crossing any oceans.

This extraordinary journey covers a staggering distance of 21,808 kilometers. To complete this awe-inspiring trek, one would need to dedicate approximately 4,492 hours of non-stop walking, which equates to an astounding 187 days of continuous movement.

Hat tip: African Hub

Wow! About that holiday?