Saturday, 30 July 2005

ashenden quotes

Quotes from Ashenden by Somerset Maugham. (In fact, the cover, spine and title page of the old little hardback I have of this (a Literary Press edition, with no date on it) call it Secret Agent, while the running heads call it Ashenden. I saw one of a series volumes of collected short stories of his in a secondhand bookshop at the weekend, and it was made up primarily of the chapters of this book.)

[playing cards] Ashenden kept his eyes open and he was not careless of the possibility that his antagonist might correct the inequalities of chance.
- p61

He observed the curious little pain with which the memories of the past wrung his heart-strings. [Revisiting a place he'd spent time in before. Interesting in its expression of the passivity, the self-observation rather than the experience, of the writer]

'That Indian fellow must be a rather remarkable chap,' he said.
'He's got brains, of course.'
'One can't help being impressed by a man who had the courage to take on almost single-handed the whole British power in India.'
'I wouldn't get sentimental about him if I were you. He's nothing but a dangerous criminal.'
'I don't suppose he'd use bombs if he could command a few batteries and half a dozen battalions. He uses what weapons he can. You can hardly blame him for that. After all, he's aiming at nothing for himself, is he? He's aiming at freedom for his country. On the face of it it looks as though he were justified in his actions.'
But R. had no notion of what Ashenden was talking.
'That's very far-fetched and morbid,' he said. 'We can't go into all that. Our job is to get him and when we've got him to shoot him.'
- p102

She had a passion for intrigue and a desire for power. When he hinted that he had command of large sums of money, she saw at once that through him she might acquire an influence in the affairs of Russia. It tickled her vanity. She was immensely patriotic, but like many patriots she had an impression that her own aggrandisement tended to the good of her country.


There's an advert for posh food from M&S on telly just now: 'This isn't salmon - this is wild salmon smoked by dusky Highland maidens. This isn't chicken,' etc. No, you're right, I always think, this isn't salmon: it's albatross. That Fleetwood Mac track wouldn't have been my choice of music to sell fancy food with.


I thought certain songs would mean that it would be impossible to get a cover version of every Beatles song. But reveals that there are cover versions of Revolution No 9 (Electric Love Muffin, Phish, The Shazam, Kurt Hoffman’s Band of Weeds), Her Majesty (Robby Kreiger, Brian Sewell, Tok Tok Tok), Wild Honey Pie (Das Damen, Downsiders, The Pixies, Phish, The Squirrels) and Dig It (Laibach, who covered the entire Let It Be album except the title track). Robby Kreiger! The Pixies! In fact I now have the Brian Sewell track.

Two Marks and a Jonathan

Mark Lamarr is sitting in for Jonathan Ross this morning on Radio 2 - it’s always a good Saturday when that happens. I find JR tedious - when you take away the talking about himself and the talking about sex, there’s really nothing there. I also had to stop watching Film 200X, which deteriorated mightily from Barry Norman’s day - but last year I discovered, through the ‘listen again’ section of the BBC Radio website, Mark Kermode’s film reviews on Radio 5 on Friday afternoons, and they’re excellent. He’d have been a much more appropriate successor to Barry - maybe he’ll take over from Jonathan.

Of course, the film reviews are rather academic, since I don’t think we’ve been to the cinema since the younger generation was born. When we do go out we tend to go to something live - cinema is so expensive and video is so cheap.

Tuesday, 26 July 2005

never been so insulted

- I've never been so insulted in all my life!
- You need to get out more.

the smell of edinburgh

As we were driving along the ring road south of Edinburgh at the weekend I opened the window and the smell of Edinburgh came in. It makes me think of bakeries and breweries, so it's probably a yeasty smell; I don't know what it is, I don't know why it's there, and I don't know if it's just there in the summer, but it's the distinctive smell of Edinburgh to me.

the highland division's return to London

- Are you worried about going back to London?
- Yes: we've got to drive down the A9.

It's a scandal that the A9 isn't dual carriageway from Inverness to Edinburgh. It chops and changes between two, three and four lanes, with great scope for frustrated drivers behind tourists, reckless overtaking, forgetting whether you're on single or dual carriageway, and for some tourists forgetting that they should be driving on the left-hand side of the road. We saw some mad driving, both up and back.

I don't feel less safe in London now, after the recent bombings; I think you'd have to be lacking in imagination and awareness to have felt entirely safe before the bombings. Statistically, we're probably safer now, in fact. Ah, warm cuddly statistics.