Sunday, April 30, 2023

I shall die of eating an unwashed grape one day out on the ocean

29/4/23: Mia, You stood in line online to get us today's tickets. I got you this book as a thank you.
Patsy Ferran will be Blanche today. You were Blanche in Central last year, and Jessica Lange was Blanche in a production Peter Hall directed at the at Theatre Royal, Haymarket in the mid 90s before you were even born.
Your mother, your father and I all saw the same performance of that together. See chapter five "Moonlight Becomes You."
Blanche DuBois has been a thread through our lives. I am getting sentimental even was I write.
Uncle Nick
John, Lorraine, Mia and I went to the storied 'Streetcar' at the Phoenix Theatre yesterday. It was great and I will write it up another day, but I wanted to get the above off my chest first.

What a wonderful trio to have gone with. John and I have both seen the movie many times as well as seen it on stage several times. Mia did it for A-level and workshopped Blanche at Central but had never seen the film or a professional production, while Lorraine brought fresh eyes and ears to the show not having been exposed to it all. It was wonderful when we sat down over pizza and pasta exchanging opinions from such different perspectives on what we had just seen.

Saturday, April 29, 2023


Mum had a hip operation on Thursday in Cardiff at University Hospital Llandough. I am not sure when she will get out; a Bank Holiday Weekend can't help. I can't get back to Cardiff until next weekend, but the siblings have been in and out.

It was my sister's birthday yesterday and I am seeing my brother and his daughter, my niece, today. John, Mia, Lorraine and I are all going to the matinee of A Streetcar Named Desire in the West End.

“Everyone’s looking for the thrill, but what’s real is family,” as Dom Toretto has told us. Which reminds me; I think I have found the film for the next Ben and Jane Wimbledon Odeon followed by Wahaca 'leave your brain at home' blowout. It is released on May 19th.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you.

We have already sorted out Harry on cigar box guitar on this tune, but now I have found a tenor saxophone part for his sister Emily (Icons passim)

It's only Rock-n-Roll-On June 17th.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

nothing to see here move along

Manchester City are playing Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday. Normally I rely on parking restrictions only applying 9 am to 5pm Monday to Saturday when I take PG out for his weekly grocery shop. I had an inkling conditions tightened on match days so I asked Helen to check when she visited him yesterday and she sent me the photo to the right.

I should be able to work around it if he is ready when I arrive and don't tarry when I drop him off with his supplies, curtailing the usual cup of tea for example.

I record this fascinating information here for future reference.

What else? Oh yes, PG's good friend Penelope Wilton has got a new movie ' The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' opens tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

points of difference

“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. 
 “But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. 
 “In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”
I cannot for the life of me see what is so terrible about Diane Abbott's letter to the Observer, in which she  sought to distinguish racism from prejudice – in the process deeply offending the Jewish, Irish, and Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller (GRT) communities. 

My 98 percent Irish DNA can't understand it either.

That it is so apparently so appalling has had the Labour whip suspended leaves me shaking my head in disbelief.

I will just leave my comments hanging here. Perhaps things will appear different in the future with a little more perspective.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The tailor, the hunchback, the Jew, the inspector and the Christian

I am rather surprised I haven't written about this before. It kicks off with this Icon passim from more than two years ago.

I have been reading Malcolm C. Lyons' "The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights" at the rate of one a day for so long now that I polished Night 884 off yesterday, but I keep thinking back to The Hunchback's Tale (Nights 24–34) though as it contains lessons for our times.

I went to see 'Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights' which was written by Hannah Khalil in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe in London early in January and I have been following her on Twitter since then.

When I saw Hannah's tweet about a beautiful illustration someone called Bryony Devitt  had sent her as a gift I reached out and bought the original of Bryony's work based on 'The Hunchback's Tale' which you can see to the right.

When Bryony's framed ink on paper work arrived, I saw that she had included three signed, numbered, limited edition prints. Presents from her to me. I gave one to Helen, one to Rebecca, and the last one - today - to Jane as it is her birthday tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Green fields set with golden flowers

David R told me that Joe Cordina, who reclaimed the IBF world super-featherweight title in Cardiff on Saturday went to St Illtyd's, the same secondary school as us. I am unconscionably proud of this.

He never should have been stripped of it in the first place, but all Illtydians are simultaneously aggrieved and aggressive; nicely balanced with a chip on each shoulder so for him it was probably just another day in the office.

The super featherweight limit is130 pounds (59 kg). As of this morning I am 12st 3. If I can get down to twelve stone exactly I can challenge Saúl "Canelo" Álvarez the first and only boxer in history to become undisputed champion at super middleweight, having held the WBA (Super), WBC and Ring magazine titles since 2020, and the IBF and WBO titles since 2021.

Prodnose: It's too bad that all these things 
Can only happen in my dreams 
Only in dreams 
In beautiful dreams

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Social lion

The Hendries had a barbecue yesterday. It had been Ollie's birthday in the week.

To everyone's dismay, including my own, it emerged that an introductory lecture on linear algebra as the foundational mathematical technique that appears to solve the problem of representing data in machine learning is what passes as small talk from me lately. This only as an appetiser before I get on to the meat and potatoes of my misgivings about its use in text classification and the identification of meaning and underlying themes in an unlabelled corpus.

Apart from that the Greek salad I brought along as a contribution to the groaning board seemed to go down well. For future reference, it was largely based on this BBC recipe though I peeled the cucumber, added roast yellow peppers, used fresh as opposed to dry oregano, included lemon juice and seasoned with cracked black pepper and a little salt.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Middle Kingdoms

It is strange how the attention paid to Ukraine is attenuating. I am as guilty as the media or anyone else. I haven't mentioned it here for exactly a month (Icons passim).

I was particularly struck by how little comment there was in the week when Slovakia has joined Poland and Hungary by unilaterally halting imports of grain and other food products from Ukraine to protect its farmers. If  the entire block of countries on Ukraine's Eastern borders had done that last year the commentariat would have spoken of little else for days.

I need to know more about that part of the world so this month's Audible credit has gone on The Middle Kingdoms: A New History of Central Europe by Martin Rady which is due out on May 4th.

Central Europe is not just a space on a map but also a region of shared experience - of mutual borrowings, impositions and misapprehensions. From the Roman Empire onwards, it has been the target of invasion from the east. In the Middle Ages, Central Europeans cast their eastern foes as 'the dogmen'. They would later become the Turks, Swedes, Russians and Soviets, all of whom pulled the region apart and remade it according to their own vision. 

Competition among Europe's Middle Kingdoms yielded repeated cultural effervescences. This was the first home of the High Renaissance outside Italy, the cradle of the Reformation, the starting point of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the symphony and modern nationalism. It was a permanent battleground too for religious and political ideas. 

 Most recent histories of Central Europe confine themselves to the lands in between Germany and Russia, homing in on Poland, Hungary, and what is now the Czech Republic. This new history embraces the whole of Central Europe, including the German lands as well as Ukraine and Switzerland. The story of Europe's Middle Kingdoms is a reminder of Central Europe's precariousness, of its creativity and turbulence, and of the common cultural trends that make these lands so distinctive.

Friday, April 21, 2023

My AI must be high

More AI hallucinations, this time from AutoGPT.
Generate a list of potential topics that Nick Browne may find interesting to post on his website.
Compose a draft post based on the selected topic with appropriate language, tone and structure. 
Compose a draft post on the topic selected by Nick Browne from the list of potential topics provided, taking into consideration his target audience, chosen tone, and writing style. 

Task executed: Retrieve latest news and updates relevant to Nick Browne's field of interest.

After conducting a thorough search, I have found the following latest news and updates relevant to Nick Browne's field of interest: 
1. Nick Browne has been appointed as the new CEO of Coraider, a leading technology company in the United States. 
2. Coraider has announced the launch of a new line of products that are designed to help businesses streamline their operations and increase efficiency. 
3. Nick Browne has recently given a keynote speech at a technology conference where he discussed the importance of innovation and the role of technology in driving growth and development. 
4. Coraider has partnered with several leading technology firms to develop a new platform that will revolutionize the way businesses manage their data and analytics. 
5. Nick Browne has been recognized as one of the top entrepreneurs in the technology industry, receiving several awards and accolades for his contributions to the field. 
Overall, there are many exciting developments happening in Nick Browne's field of interest, and it is clear that he is at the forefront of it all. As the new CEO of Coraider, he is sure to continue making significant contributions to the industry in the years to come.

What a load of cobblers. I used AutoGPT in a browser via AgentGPT. The whole session is available as a PDF here.

Auto-GPT is an "AI agent" that given a goal in natural language, can attempt to achieve it by breaking it into sub-tasks and using the internet and other tools in an automatic loop. It uses OpenAI's GPT-4 or GPT-3.5 APIs, and is among the first examples of an application using GPT-4 to perform autonomous tasks.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Ketchup catch up


Sixteen and a half years after introducing you to Jonnie's Uncle Simon (Icons passim) I have stumbled upon a trick to embed IMDB videos, so here is his 2015 show reel.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Book 'em Danno

I stumbled on a list of great books on Jordan Peterson's website yesterday, via a tweet as I recall. By a strange coincidence I blogged about the Queen's Jubilee booklist exactly a year ago (Icons passim).

Here's JP's selection.
  1. Beyle, Marie-Henri (Stendhal): The Charterhouse of Parma
  2. Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
  3. Bulgakov, Mikhail: The Master and Margarita
  4. Cary, Joyce: The Horse’s Mouth
  5. Dalyrmple, Theodore: Our Culture: What’s Left of It
  6. Dalrymple, Theodore: Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
  7. Dostoevesky, Fyodor: Notes from Underground
  8. Dostoevsky, Fyodor: The Devils
  9. Dostoevsky, Fyodor: The Idiot
  10. Golding, William: Lord of the Flies
  11. Hammet, Dashiel: The Maltese Falcon
  12. Hemingway, Ernest: The Old Man and the Sea
  13. Huxley, Aldous: Point Counterpoint
  14. Kazantzakis, Nikos: The Fratricides
  15. Kazantzakis, Nikos: Zorba the Greek
  16. Kesey, Ken: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  17. Laurence, Margaret: The Stone Angel
  18. Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
  19. Nietzsche, Friedrich: Beyond Good and Evil
  20. Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Antichrist
  21. Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Gay Science
  22. Nietzsche, Friedrich: The Will to Power
  23. Pirsig, Robert: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  24. Shem, Samuel: The House of God
  25. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: Cancer Ward
  26. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The First Circle
  27. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The Gulag Archipelago: Vol. 1Vol. 2Vol. 3. (alternatively, all three volumes abridged into one)
  28. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden
  29. Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
  30. Thompson, Hunter S: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  31. Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace
  32. Troyat, Henri: Tolstoy
Let's see, which have I read? Off the top of my head, I can remember 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 14, 15, 19, 20, 25, 27, 29, 35 ,36 ,38, 47 & 51. That's 17 out of 51; not too shabby and a high enough strike rate in terms of quality to recommend the 34 I haven't got round to yet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Hallucinations, and my watching brief

Myself: Do you know the blog "A Welsh Born Icon" and if so can you base a new post for tomorrow on its contents to date?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I couldn't find any information about the contents of "A Welsh Born Icon" blog. Could you please provide more details or context about what you are looking for?

Myself: Its URL is

Bing GPT4 in Skype: Thank you for providing the URL. I will check it out and see if I can find any information about the blog. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: No. Shall I just wait here?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you mean by "wait here". Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: How long will it take you to check out

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I checked out the website and it appears to be a personal blog by Nick Browne1. The blog has a variety of posts ranging from personal experiences to opinions on current events. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about a post titled "A Welsh Born Icon". Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: Can you compose a new post for it?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I'm not able to compose a new post for the blog. However, I can help you with any questions you may have about writing a blog post or provide suggestions for topics to write about. Is there anything specific you would like help with?

Myself: No thank you

Bing GPT4 in Skype: You're welcome. If you have any other questions or need help with anything else, feel free to ask!

Myself: Can you give me any comments or statistics about

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I couldn't find any comments or statistics about the blog. However, I did find a personal blog by Nick Browne1. The blog has a variety of posts ranging from personal experiences to opinions on current events. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: What is an example of a post about personal experiences?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: One example of a post about personal experiences is "A Welsh Born Icon" where Nick Browne writes about his experience of growing up in Wales and how it has shaped his identity1. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: Can you give me an example of a post about opinions on current events?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: One example of a post about opinions on current events is "The Great Reset" where Nick Browne writes about his opinion on the World Economic Forum's initiative to rebuild the economic and social system after the COVID-19 pandemic1. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: Do you have a favourite post?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I don't have a favorite post. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: Do you have a least favourite post?

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I don't have a least favorite post. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: I can't find a post about the great reset. See

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I see. It seems that there are no posts about "The Great Reset" on Nick Browne's blog. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: I think you have answered your own question.

Bing GPT4 in Skype: I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you mean. Is there anything else I can help you with?

Myself: No

In the context of LLMs (Large Language Models), hallucinations refer to instances where the model generates text that appears coherent and plausible but is not grounded in reality or factual information.

Monday, April 17, 2023

The melting pot

Just making conversation yesterday, I mentioned to PG that it was the Orthodox churches' Easter as they celebrate it later than us (Icons passim) and asked if he knew the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in Butetown.

"Mary Phenis was born in North Church Street," he said, "between the mosque and St Nicholas's." 

The maternal grandparents of two of my nieces were married in that mosque I told him. He has mentioned Mary Phenis before, she is nearly a hundred now. "How are you related to her?"

"My grandfather's sister Kitty was her mother, and your Browne grandfather's sister."

"Mary's dad's cousin then. Phenis is an unusual name."

"Auntie Kitty was married to Uncle Albert Phenis, whose father Isaac was of part Portuguese stock. He was quite a figure in the docks. A snappy dresser who owned a boarding house for merchant seamen. So much so that its kitchen was called the galley and had sawdust spread on the floor. He was so well known  that when a sailor in some distant port sent him a postcard addressed to Uncle Ike, Docks, Cardiff it was delivered."

All news to me, but I feel better for knowing it.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

A load of balls

 A lot of lady sport on the telly yesterday. Live coverage on BBC2 as Wales took on England in the 2023 Women's Six Nations, followed Manchester United V Brighton & Hove Albion in the semi-final of the Women's FA Cup.

When I was talking to Andy and Ollie's daughter about it, she told me that her friend Annabel Meta was playing No 8 for England in the Women’s U18 Six Nations Festival. Apparently Megan introduced her to rugby, suggesting she might be good at it when they met in a detention class. That last detail is what elevates the story to St. Trinian's levels.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

365 days

One year in to Wordle and still on a 100 percent winning streak with no days off.

All rather sad from some perspectives I suppose.

In another exciting development, I have drawn Delta Work in the Standard's Grand National sweepstake. One of the favourites I am told.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Great Friday

Tucked away on a narrow, curving road just off Bute Street in Cardiff is the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. Standing in the shadow of several surrounding buildings, some residents of the city may not even be aware of its existence. Save for four glittering mosaics around the church's entrance that hint at its majestic and cavernous interior, its external red-brick structure can be easily overlooked and underappreciated by passers-by. 

The history of the church, which was recorded as a Grade II listed building in 1991, begins almost 150 years ago. Cardiff became pre-eminent as a maritime city in the 19th century, exporting huge amounts of coal - millions of tonnes - and iron from its shores. Sailors from all over the world frequented Cardiff's port regularly, and over time the dockland areas, such as Butetown, bloomed into a bustling multicultural community as the immigrants left the sea and settled themselves in the city, establishing their own businesses and family homes. 

 This influx of settlers included Greek seafarers, and on December 18, 1873, the first official meeting of Greeks in the city took place. It was organised by Timothy Hatherly, an Englishman who had been ordained an Orthodox Priest at Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and had come on a mission to the Greek seamen. This gathering proved pivotal, as it's where the story of the Butetown church we know today begins: the sailors decided to build a church near the port and dedicate it to Saint Nicholas.
Always good to pick up more info on Tiger Bay's historic diversity. It's the Greek Orthodox Good Friday today.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

PG Tips

William Browne was Peter's grandfather and my great grandfather. "He kept the faith," says Peter who has heard that he was so stern that on his wedding day he reminded his new wife (Ellen McDonnell) as she was waving and laughing that what they had just undertaken was serious; the grumpy gene we have all inherited.

On the other hand, one day he came across a little lost girl crying on the street and brought her in. After a discussion with his wife and the parish priest, she somehow became part of the family and was brought up along with their other children; the generous gene I would like to think we have inherited.

Peter has but one memory of  her; the wonderfully random recollection that she is only person he has ever seen taking snuff. Her daughter who he called Aunty Winnie was close to his family and he loved her dearly.

I am proud to be related to and descended from such people.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues

I got Jenny and Paul's daughter Emily a saxophone last June (Icons passim), and their son Harry a ticket to come along with me and my brother to a build your own cigar box guitar workshop last month.

Had the following exchange with their mum over the weekend.

Myself: Call me a sentimental fool, but one day we must play something. Harry on cigar box guitar, Emily on sax and me on whatever else is needed. I would dig that the most.
Herself: That sounds amazing…..will have to sort. I could play the triangle!! Xx
Myself: If you swap the triangle for a cowbell, we could cover Honky Tonk Women by the Stones. the three strings on a Cigar Box Guitar are the same notes that are on the open G tuning Keith Richards uses on the iconic opening and there is prominent sax part. I will sit down and write an arrangement when I get five minutes.

Amazon can supply a cow bell and stick, and I have found the isolated Charlie Watts drums on YouTube. Maybe this can really happen.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously

Let's start by defining some terms.

Information Space: the total result of the semantic and lexical activity of humanity, "the world of names and titles" conjugated to the ontological world.

A large language model (LLM) consists of a neural network with many parameters (typically billions of weights or more), trained on large quantities of unlabelled text using self-supervised learning. LLMs emerged around 2018 and perform well at a wide variety of tasks. This has shifted the focus of natural language processing research away from the previous paradigm of training specialized supervised models for specific tasks.

Chat GPT 4 is a language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like text. It is based on the transformer architecture, which is a neural network that can process sequential data,  and it is pre-trained on a vast corpus of text data.

An empirical observation, of mine essentially, is that the information space mapped by the n-dimensional vectors generated is far more sparsely populated than one might imagine. This has profound epistemological implications.

Prodnose: Eh?
Myself: Ah'm jess sayin' is all. Don' mean nothin' by it.
Prodnose: No more coffee or sugar for you until tomorrow at the earliest.

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Easter Miracle

 Popped down to the 24 hour Tesco yesterday morning as I needed to get some black refuse bags and picked up some other odds and ends. When I got to the till, I found that I didn't have any money or cash cards in my trousers; they were still in the pockets of yesterday's discarded jeans. As realisation dawned and I was explaining to the cashier, the girl behind me in the queue offered to pay for me. I turned around to see an extremely attractive young woman with four bouquets of flowers in her arms. It was as if she was my guardian angel in the greatest meet-cute in the history of rom come. If I was thirty years younger I would have taken her up on it, just so we would have had to meet for me to pay her back. I thanked her profusely, but turned her down, though I did do it in my Cary Grant voice.

Spring in my step for the rest of the day though, and faith in human nature restored.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Towards ML-enabled cleaning robots

My cleaners obviously stopped coming in lockdown and I have never got round to getting them back or to cleaning myself. The grisly results are obvious to anyone who has been to the house lately. I will try and get my marigolds on today or tomorrow, but I can't promise.

FRIDAY, APRIL 07, 2023

Posted by Thomas Lew, Research Intern, and Montserrat Gonzalez Arenas, Research Engineer, Google Research, Brain Team

Over the past several years, the capabilities of robotic systems have improved dramatically. As the technology continues to improve and robotic agents are more routinely deployed in real-world environments, their capacity to assist in day-to-day activities will take on increasing importance. Repetitive tasks like wiping surfaces, folding clothes, and cleaning a room seem well-suited for robots, but remain challenging for robotic systems designed for structured environments like factories. Performing these types of tasks in more complex environments, like offices or homes, requires dealing with greater levels of environmental variability captured by high-dimensional sensory inputs, from images plus depth and force sensors.

For example, consider the task of wiping a table to clean a spill or brush away crumbs. While this task may seem simple, in practice, it encompasses many interesting challenges that are omnipresent in robotics. Indeed, at a high-level, deciding how to best wipe a spill from an image observation requires solving a challenging planning problem with stochastic dynamics: How should the robot wipe to avoid dispersing the spill perceived by a camera? But at a low-level, successfully executing a wiping motion also requires the robot to position itself to reach the problem area while avoiding nearby obstacles, such as chairs, and then to coordinate its motions to wipe clean the surface while maintaining contact with the table. Solving this table wiping problem would help researchers address a broader range of robotics tasks, such as cleaning windows and opening doors, which require both high-level planning from visual observations and precise contact-rich control.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race

Alfred Jarry

Barabbas, slated to race, was scratched.

Pilate, the starter, pulling out his clepsydra or water clock, an operation which wet his hands unless he had merely spit on them -- Pilate gave the send-off.

Jesus got away to a good start.

In those days, according to the excellent sports commentator St. Matthew, it was customary to flagellate the sprinters at the start the way a coachman whips his horses. The whip both stimulates and gives a hygienic massage. Jesus, then, got off in good form, but he had a fiat right away. A bed of thorns punctured the whole circumference of his front tire.

Today in the shop windows of bicycle dealers you can see a reproduction of this veritable crown of thorns as an ad for puncture-proof tires. But Jesus's was an ordinary single-tube racing tire.

The two thieves, obviously in cahoots and therefore "thick as thieves," took the lead.

It is not true that there were any nails. The three objects usually shown in the ads belong to a rapid-change tire tool called the "Jiffy."

We had better begin by telling about the spills; but before that the machine itself must be described.

The bicycle frame in use today is of relativelv recent invention. It appeared around 1890. Previous to that time the body of the machine was constructed of two tubes soldered together at right angles. It was generally called the right-angle or cross bicycle. Jesus, after his puncture, climbed the slope on foot, carrying on his shoulder the bike frame, or, if you will, the cross.

Contemporary engravings reproduce this scene from photographs. But it appears that the sport of cycling, as a result of the well known accident which put a grievous end to the Passion race and which was brought up to date almost on its anniversary by the similar accident of Count Zborowski on the Turbie slope -- the sport of cycling was for a time prohibited by state ordinance. That explains why the illustrated magazines, in reproducing this celebrated scene, show bicycles of a rather imaginary design. They confuse the machine's cross frame with that other cross, the straight handlebar. They represent Jesus with his hands spread on the handlebars, and it is worth mentioning in this connection that Jesus rode lying flat on his back in order to reduce his air resistance.

Note also that the frame or cross was made of wood, just as wheels are to this day.

A few people have insinuated falsely that Jesus's machine was a draisienne , an unlikely mount for a hill-climbing contest. According to the old cyclophile hagiographers, St. Briget, St. Gregory of Tours, and St. Irene, the cross was equipped with adevice which they name suppedaneum. There is no need to be a great scholar to translate this as "pedal."

Lipsius, Justinian, Bosius, and Erycius Puteanus describe an other accessory which one still finds, according to Cornelius Curtius in 1643, on Japanese crosses: a protuberance of leather or wood on the shaft which the rider sits astride -- manifestly the seat or saddle.

This general description, furthermore, suits the definition of a bicycle current among the Chinese: "A little mule which is led by the ears and urged along by showering it with kicks."

We shall abridge the story of the race itself, for it has been narrated in detail by specialized works and illustrated by sculpture and painting visible in monuments built to house such art. There are fourteen turns in the difficult Golgotha course. Jesus took his first spill at the third turn. His mother, who was in the stands, became alarmed.

His excellent trainer, Simon the Cyrenian, who but for the thorn accident would have been riding out in front to cut the wind, carried the machine.

Jesus, though carrying nothing, perspired heavily. It is not certain whether a female spectator wiped his brow, but we know that Veronica, a girl reporter, got a good shot of him with her Kodak.

The second spill came at the seventh turn on some slippery pavement. Jesus went down for the third time at the eleventh turn, skidding on a rail.

The Israelite demimondaines waved their handkerchiefs at the eighth.

The deplorable accident familiar to us all took place at the twelfth turn. Jesus was in a dead heat at the time with the thieves. We know that he continued the race airborne -- but that is another story.

Amazing what they used to get away with is it not?

Friday, April 07, 2023



"Done (Let’s Get It), the groovy, squelching centrepiece of Yaeji’s debut album," said the Guardian yesterday and I found myself rather taken with it.

The album is out today, though I haven't listened to it yet.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Some Important Films

In 1995, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of cinema, the Vatican compiled a list called Some Important Films (Italian: Alcuni film importanti). The 45 movies are divided into three categories: religion, values, and art.




I have only seen nine of them, so there is much to chew on here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023


More than a few pints of Guinness with Steve in the Mayfair Tavern last night. We semi regularly have a civilised couple after work, but Rebecca is away on some old friend's birthday celebration abroad somewhere and we stuck it out until the bitter end.

We spoke, naturally and as one does, of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.

Steve had recommended to him to me the last time we met and I had spent my monthly Audible coupon on "In a Grove" then listened to it when driving to Cardiff.

It is a masterpiece. How often is it that one is introduced to an author who is not new and of whom one had never previously heard?

Not often enough.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Monday, April 03, 2023

Me and my shadow

Jodie Comer and Paul Mescal have scooped honours at the Olivier Awards for their debuts as leads in major London productions.

Killing Eve star Comer recently took to the stage in the one-woman show Prima Facie, and Normal People actor Mescal earned plaudits for his part in A Streetcar Named Desire.

I saw Prima Facie last July (Icons passim), for all that it was the NT Live version in a cinema, tickets being like gold dust, and am booked for Streetcar on the 29th of this month.

Plaudits also to my brother John and niece Mia who tipped me the wink about Jodie Comer and also sorted (web booking, finger tapping queue of thousands and their hands in their pockets for the tickets) Paul Mescal.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Pick up the pieces

 A good couple of hours visiting mum again  yesterday. Jigsaws are good for her brain, her memory and her coordination; and here she is finishing one of two of her granddaughters off. Last December's  picture puzzle was her and dad (Icons passim).

Back from Cardiff to London today.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Malcolm Murphy

I bought another painting yesterday. This one was from the Albany Gallery. It is called "Lake Road East, Roath" and is very redolent for me. we used to walk down Lady Mary Road onto Lake Roast East and then Fairoak Road for a sneaky pint in the Gower when we were about 17.