Monday, 31 July 2006

in touch with my inner oprah

I sometimes do searches along the lines of 'outer hebrides'+blog to see what's kicked up. Recently I found Cambridge Living in the Outer Hebrides, in which Michaela records her progress on the Cambridge Diet. She lost 12lb in the first week, which sounds both impressive and alarming. If I were a big black American woman rather than a weedy white Scottish chap, I'd be shouting 'You go, girl!' instead of just thinking it.

machine head? are you sure?

An item from last Thursday's Guardian:

Division bells sound over MPs' musical tastes
All the number one albums over the last 50 years form part of a display opening today at the British Library in London. To mark 50 years of the album charts, it asked every MP to name his or her favourite number one - although only 41 replied. John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, chose Deep Purple's Machine Head.
Cabinet ministers who replied include Alan Johnson (the Beatles' Revolver) and Peter Hain (Manic Street Preachers' This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours). Lib Dem Lembit Opik chose the album which topped the poll, Led Zeppelin II.

- The Tory chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee chose Deep Purple's Machine Head. There's either something very wrong or very splendid in this alternative world I've woken up in.

This site lists all the MPs choices, a wholly unpredictable list, which additionally reveals that Michael Howard's favourite is The Beatles, and that a Glasgow Labour MP, John Robertson (who's let himself go since his football-playing days), also chose Machine Head. It all seems very odd.

this bed's still warm...

The essayist William Hazlitt has had a few mentions in Ian Mayes' Guardian column over the years. I've never been that interested, but I did like this fact in last Monday's column:

'In fact, he died in poverty, very near the churchyard [of St Ann's, Wardour St, Soho, where he's buried], in lodgings in Frith Street, in what is now Hazlitt's Hotel. His landlady concealed his body beneath the bed while she showed the room to prospective tenants.'

Saturday, 29 July 2006

memorial tablet on wellington barracks railings

On our way from St James' Park to Victoria Street I noticed a memorial tablet on the railings of Wellington Barracks, just across Birdcage Walk. It says (because I took a photo of it): 'To the glory of God and in ever living memory of Gnr Arthur P Sullivan VC who was accidentally killed on April 9th 1937 whilst serving as a representative of his country at the coronation of HM King George VI. This tablet was erected by his comrades of the Australian coronation contingent 1938.' Intriguing. This page gives information on the VC (awarded in 1919 - I don't think I've ever heard of the North Russia Relief Force) and the death ('an accident in which he fell while walking to his quarters'). Ah, this page gives more info, including why the plaque's there: ' Sullivan died when he accidentally slipped and struck his head against a kerb in Birdcage Walk near Wellington Barracks, London.'


I haven't looked at for a long time. They've increased their portfolio of splendid demotivational posters.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006


When the others came home yesterday afternoon there was a fox sitting at the bottom of our garden - not the first time we've seen a fox in the garden. When M and I were out two Sunday afternoons ago we saw three foxes in the waste ground in front of the London Park Hotel.

arabella weir on postmodern irony, and 'enjoy summer' stickers

These days all you have to do to qualify as posh is have enough money to buy a 4x4, never eat and carry a naff handbag advertising the designer's initials. So who on earth can we collectively cock a snook at?

Enter Big Brother. At last, some serfs! No one likes them. No one is supposed to. They're all repulsive. They've been hand-picked to bring the nation together in shared, snobby scorn. It's a 21st-century version of the pernicious Indian caste system brought direct to your living room by Endemol. They're the new Untouchables, the lowest status members of the classification, the only group that unites all those from the ranks above.

My hip 25-year-old brother made a stab at plying the "they know what they're doing, they are willing participants in the house" argument. You know, that hackneyed route justified, supposedly, by the use of the "postmodern ironic" adage. I saw that pathetic defence off sharpish, I can tell you. I rumbled that wheeze a long time ago.

When we first started making The Fast Show in 1994 I was amazed to see topless girls appearing in various sketches. Upon raising the issue with Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson (my co-stars and the principal writers and producers of the show), I was told that their inclusion was "postmodern ironic". Unconvinced, I pressed on. How does that work then? "They aren't topless in an exploitative-Benny-Hill-sex-object-using-them way," they said. "They're topless in an including-them-in-the-joke-poking-fun-at-the-dated-sexist-comedy-shows-of-the-70s way." But you still get to see their tits? I ventured. Well, yes, but not in a politically incorrect way. Apparently there is a right and wrong way to include breasts in comedy.

See what they did there? As with many shows since, including, depressingly, one written and performed by an all-female cast (Smack The Pony), TV shows have spuriously employed women's bodies to ensure the show's success, all the while hotly dissociating themselves from any accusations of anti-feminism. Just like all those marvellous boys' magazines for which the original Loaded blazed the trail. With any one of them, you'll get near-pornographic photos of girls on the front and plenty more inside, but it's all treated as "funny", and if you include an article written in joined-up writing, then hey presto, it's not a dirty magazine for pathetic losers who have to objectify women in order to be able to deal with them, oh no, it's a postmodern ironic publication.

- Arabella Weir, The Guardian, Tuesday 20 June 2006.

Plus bonus Sainsbury's para from her same column of that day:
While shopping in Sainsbury's the other day I noticed the same, distinctive sticker on various items - packets of ham, some sliced chicken, a pot of hummus, etc. The sticker is stuck well away from the price and other vital bits of information. It stands, or rather sticks, alone and gives out a command. The round sticker printed in a red and yellow "we're all mates" style of font reads: "Enjoy summer". Why should I? What if I don't feel like enjoying summer? What if I'm a perimenopausal woman with a bad bout of water retention caused by the heat of the aforementioned summer and not enough time in the day to do anything properly and am, consequently, physically incapable of following their instruction? What are they going to do about it? How are they going to check? Are we living in Maoist China where a supermarket is going to tell me how to feel? Are they suggesting I will be better equipped to enjoy summer simply by eating their ham? Is it a covert message? I noticed it didn't appear on the loo roll, for example. Why not? Am I supposed to not enjoy summer while I'm having a poo? The sticker also doesn't, oddly, appear on any of the bottles of wine, either, and I can assure Sainsbury's I'm much more likely to enjoy summer having downed a couple of them of a balmy evening.

(The miserable commenters on the webpage appreciated her column a good deal less than I did)

daniel and c day lewis

In the June 2006 Uncut, Daniel Day Lewis is being interviewed about various of his films. Of My Left Foot he says, ‘Of course, after it I didn’t work for two years, I was worn out.’ And of In The Name Of The Father he says, ‘I didn’t work for three years afterwards because, again, I was so emotionally shattered.’ Yes, it’s a hard life being an actor.

He’s very highly rated for the intensity of his commitment to and research for a role, and staying in role on set at all times, but to me that suggests that he’s not a very good actor at all - he can’t pretend to do or be something, he has to learn how to do or be it, and he can’t drop out of the role in case he can’t pick it up again. (And I, after all, am an expert in these matters.)

I had a children’s book by his father, C Day Lewis (who he is supposed to have ‘seen’ while he was playing Hamlet at the National, prompting him to drop out mid-performance; I saw that Hamlet, though not that performance, and wasn’t much taken by it). I don’t remember anything about The Otterbury Incident except the cover by Edward Ardizzone. I had to check the spelling of that surname, and had a look for the cover image while I was at it - and here it is.

dara o'briain the atheist catholic

I’m staunchly atheist, I simply don’t believe in God. But I’m still Catholic, of course. Catholicism has a much broader reach than just the religion. I’m ethnically Catholic, it’s the box you have to tick on the census form: ‘Don’t believe in God, but I do still hate Rangers.’ The fact is that it’s a shared hinterland between me and every other Irish person, a collection of references that we all understand, stories we all know, our opinions about William of Orange, everything. It plunges you into a particular side of every debate, it’s like a huge club you can’t ever leave. I’m definitely a Catholic, and nobody could possibly believe in God less than I do.
- Dara O’Briain, The Word, April 2006

lauren laverne quotes

People say ‘ooh, how can you get up at five thirty to do the breakfast show...?’ It’s not work. It’s long hours but it’s not work. My grandad literally did get up at five thirty in the morning to go into a mine eight miles under the sea. So that’s work. Me getting up at half five and getting into a car that’s been pre-booked for us and getting out at XFM receiving a bag of free records and playing some of them on air is by no stretch of the imagination work. It’s an absolute pleasure.
I can look at bands like the Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys and I know that if I’d been 14 heart bursts just thinking about it. I would’ve loved them, but I know I’ll never live it in the same way as I did and I don’t know if you ever can.
- Lauren Laverne, The Word, April 2006

the humour of humiliation

I was looking the other way when it became unsayable, so here goes: Little Britain isn’t funny. ... I find myself increasingly unamused by state-of-the-art humour. ... I think I’ve worked out why I’m laughing less: I’m not amused by humiliation. I don’t see what’s so funny about watching somebody squirm. Yet this seems central to so much current light entertainment. ... As more and more formats tacitly endorse the enjoyment of somebody’s discomfort, it’s beginning to feel like bullying disguised as entertainment. ... While seeking a new way to stir us with satire, [Chris] Morris inadvertently green-lit a strain of disquieting entertainment which, in the years since, seized by less complex comic minds marinated in post-Loaded machismo, has grown into something ugly. I’m as dismayed as Morris by celebrity or media cant, but was his ‘cake’ prank, intrinsically more ‘funny’ than Noel Edmonds’s rancid Gotcha Oscars? No, they fundamentally relied on humiliating somebody who was either gullible or not in on the joke. Whichever way you stack it, that’s bullying. ... I know there’s always the Off button, but, whether I watch or not, we’re still being asked to adopt the role of either tormentor or self-flagellator when we fancy a laugh. If tastes in entertainment provide any kind of social gauge I think I’m entitled to be unnerved. The government has launched a TV advertising campaign to help combat the phenomenal increase of violent bullying in schools. Britain is infested with it. Meanwhile, we’re invited to peel back layers of irony to scrabble for scraps of amusement, something no more sophisticated than poking fun at the village idiot. ... A friend of mine couldn’t bear I’m Alan Partridge because it reminded him of his dad and laughing at it felt akin to ridiculing his father. ... I suppose I’m surprised to find myself, for the first time, offended by comedy. Not by swearing, sexual frankness, blasphemy, treason or anything else that upset The Viewers & Listeners Association, but by an insidious cruelty seeping into the culture like unchecked dry rot. ... [Peter] Cook lost me in that infamous drunken attack on Dudley Moore during the final Derek & Clive sessions - where he bangs on about cancer shortly after Moore’s mother had died. It’s one of the most awkward, unpleasant moments of ‘comedy’ ever recorded, the weakness of the bully nakedly exposed, an awful indictment of the ‘as long as someone laughs’ argument that satire is sacrosanct. It’s generally considered the nadir of Cook’s career and he regretted it. Yet I can’t help feeling as if the impulse Cook succumbed to - a rush of self-hatred, a thirst for derision, a failure of warmth - is where too much of our current entertainment begins.
- Jim Irvin, The Word (it’s acquired a definite article now), February 2006

gail zappa's parenting tips

The parenting technique of Gail Zappa, wife of Frank, as reported in the August 2005 issue of Word: ‘She appears to have been the household enforcer, with an effective way of dealing with bickering kids. “I would record their arguments, then handcuff them to the towel rack in the bathroom,” she reveals, “and force them to listen back to themselves in that echoey room.” That would do the trick.’

danger: fire area

The August 2005 issue of Word, in an interview with Grace Slick, reported that ‘Her Marin County home burned down in 1993, in a fire caused by welders fitting a sign nearby that read, “Danger: Fire Area”’.

(several mag quotes ahoy, clearing out some of my backlog)

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

wihb: throwing matches on troubled petrol

I did smile when I saw the Gazette's publication of highlights from John MacLeod's leaked report on the travails of the WIHB, which he prepared as a pitch for a pr/communications job with the health board, which he then got. John always writes well and entertainingly, and often insightfully (as I think is the case here), although sometimes he goes too far (I guess the fate of all strongly-opinioned columnists). And I doubt he'd be anyone's appointment if you were seeking to pour oil on troubled waters. Well, it's certainly spiced things up, as if things needed any further spicing up.

Here's the Free Press's report of the story, and Brian Wilson's comment on it (which is pretty accurate). And a couple of links from Alex to BBC and Observer stories.

I really need to resubscribe to the Free Press, a proper newspaper. I couldn't bear The Hebridean any more, ground down by its incessantly appalling spelling, grammar and style. The Gazette never seems to involve any actual journalism or analysis, just publishes everyone's letters and press releases and leaves the reader to work out where the truth might lie in all of this (this has been especially true in relation to the wind farms, I think; and it's been the Free Press that has carried the burden of reporting the health board saga).

Monday, 24 July 2006


From The Guardian World Cup blog:
If there were a contest for the title of "most stupid fans at the World Cup", two England supporters in Cologne who mislaid their car ahead of tonight's match against Sweden would certainly be in the running. The fans parked their car in Cologne's old city and, before going off to have a drink, they wrote down what they thought was the German street name. When they returned several hours later, they could no longer find their car. According to this morning's German press, the unnamed England fans, who had driven to the Rhine city from Belgium, then approached two police officers and handed over a crumpled piece of paper with the street name on it. Unfortunately, however, it read - "Einbahnstrasse", the German for one-way street. German officers this morning said they had to carry out an "intensive search" before discovering the missing vehicle in a nearby side street.

revolver reloaded

A recent Mojo had a cover CD made up of covers of the songs off Revolver (plus Rain) specially commissioned off various artists. I bought it, of course.

The original album has fourteen tracks clocking in at 34:59 - less than two-and-a-half minutes per song on average. The cover album, minus Rain, lasts 45:24 - an extra ten minutes added to no good effect at all. It confirms my suspicion of tribute CDs made up of specially commissioned covers rather than pre-existing covers - they're just not as good. People covering material because they've been asked to rather than because they had something they wanted to do or say with the song already.

But it did bump up my list of 'Beatles songs for which I have covers' by four. Just sixty-seven to go...

saxondale; the castle

We're enjoying Saxondale, the latest Steve Coogan comedy series. The reviews I've seen have described him as unlikeable but I think he's a pretty sympathetic, likeable character. I remember the review in Time Out of the Australian film The Castle talking about the family in the film being portrayed negatively, but they'd missed the point that although their circumstances were grim they were a loving and content family. In both cases it's hard to see how the reviewers missed that.

The Castle also had a tremendous minor key cover version of Baby Now That I've Found You which stuck with me for years. Then on the back of O Brother Where Art Thou? I got a Best of Alison Krauss CD, and there it was. It also has a very good cover of I Will. It's a good album altogether, and I'll put it on in a minute after Rubber Soul's finished.

And tonight's episode of Saxondale quoted the line from Spirit of Radio I quoted the other day. It all links up.

Saturday, 22 July 2006

two minutes silence, tesco style

Probably the worst thing about my job is that I have to read the awful right-wing rag that is the London Evening Standard. They have some interesting bits from time to time, though, like this quote from a Julian Clary article in the New Statesman: 'I was browsing around Tesco at midday when an announcement was made. To show our respect for the victims of the London bombings a year ago, we would all now observe two minutes silence. My fellow shoppers and I stood, heads bowed... Collective moments of united grief can be very powerful. Unfortunately the management had failed to turn off the music and our sombre reflections were somewhat disturbed by James Brown telling us how he felt like being a sex machine.'

french taunter and maturity

Simon Hoggart in his column in last Saturday's Guardian (which I just read this evening), quoted an extract from the French taunter scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As boys we knew most of the taunts by heart. The line that made me laugh out loud when I read it just now, though, was King Arthur's reply in the face of this taunting: 'Is there someone else we could talk to?' Perhaps this means I have grown up.

seaside shuffle and buckets of rain

Singing to myself in the shower last night (I would have been ordered to 'stop singing, daddy!', if the orderer hadn't been asleep), I realised that Seaside Shuffle by Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs (aka John Lewis, aka Jona Lewie) has pretty much the same tune as Buckets of Rain by Bob Dylan. Seaside Shuffle predates Buckets of Rain in release date by a couple of years, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Bob was trawling British novelty hits for melodies.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

the comedy theatre: 'you might as well laugh...

... you won't get your money back.'

Brian Murphy said that to the audience when we saw The Adventures of the Invisible Man at the Comedy Theatre long ago. I don't know if it was scripted or ad lib, or an old music hall line, but I thought it was a great thing to say. I searched for it online for uses of it but didn't find anything significant. Brian Murphy was the narrator; I knew him best from George and Mildred; he's now in the Catherine Tate Show and Last Of The Summer Wine. lists most of the shows that have been on at the Comedy Theatre since 1980. So it looks like we saw The Invisible Man in the summer of 1993. We've also seen at least The Real Inspector Hound, Black Comedy and The Caretaker there.

new arrival

And at ten to nine, around the time we were standing at the top of the stairs to the Comedy Theatre balcony in the interval, getting a bit of cooler air, eating our small, expensive but very nice tubs of ice cream, thinking the second half couldn't be very long if the play only ran two hours as the programme said, looking down and out of the window at the people drinking on the street outside the Tom Cribb pub across the road, wondering who Tom Cribb was, seeing the blue plaque up above indicating that Tom Cribb the bareknuckle boxer used to live here, and wondering who the ambulance that had pulled up was for, the first nephew or niece on my side of the family was being born in Stornoway, a son to Chris and Mairi. Which was nice.

donkeys' years

Last night we went to see Donkeys' Years, by Michael Frayn, at the Comedy Theatre. Again, a farce that's had very good reviews that we thought was just okay. I think in both cases we would agree with the positive things they said in the reviews, but just nowhere near as enthusiastically; it didn't make us laugh as much as it made the reviewers laugh. These two farces were the overlap on our lists of things we wanted to see; all the other stuff we each wanted to see was rather more substantial and serious, but just different from each other. Next time we might be better doing one of each. Reviews here from The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent, another from The Independent.

Monday, 17 July 2006

see how they run

We saw See How They Run at the Duchess Theatre on Friday night. A wartime farce revived. It's had rave reviews; it was good fun, but not that good. Reviews from The Guardian, The Times, a little one from The Daily Telegraph, What's On Stage review round-up. Interview with Tim Pigott-Smith in The Times.

Sunday, 16 July 2006

eric bogle

Last Friday (nine days ago) mum and I went to see is Eric Bogle and John Munro (as accompanist/harmoniser) at Court Sessions, a folk club in Tooting. Mum thought Eric Bogle was tremendous; I'm glad I spotted that he'd be on when she was down. I thought he was fine; I preferred the couple of songs before each set, though, by Dave in the first half and Dave & Doreen in the second half - resident singers in the club. The concertina is a fine mournful sound. I hope to make use of my membership card and go again when it resumes after the summer. I'd meant to go for ages, as it's straightforward to get to from us, but had never got round to it before.

small child singing along to French prog rock

I've seen a few references to YouTube, but the first YouTube video I've watched - tipped off by John, on the Rocking Vicar blog - is this video of a small child singing along with French prog rock, which is tremendous and makes me realise how far behind I am in educating the next generation. I'm probably playing too many things instead of extensive exposure to a specialist canon. The bit I like best is where you think she's lost interest and is drifting off, and then perks back up with an 'ee oh'.

Inspired by this, I visited the YouTube site itself, but it's very undescriptive and uncategorised, leaving you fearful of clicking on something in case it's something awful.

Later: revisiting the Rocking Vicar page to view it yet again, I see that this blog item has appeared in a 'pages linking to this page' section, which I wasn't expecting. I guess because both pages are hosted on blogspot.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

trouble glides behind

The many cat-related postings have not shaken me off SB's blog, and I'm very glad, or I'd be missing gems like this fabulous Paintshop Pro representation of a pedestrian/cyclist close encounter, which made me laugh out loud. 'It gives the general idea of what happened, though.' SB, you are a star.

I'm not a pet man, cat or otherwise. But in honourable cat-related exchange, the only titbit which comes to mind is the fact, which I may have recorded before, that David Baddiel used to have a cat called Chairman Miaow. Which I thought was rather good.

The which/that distinction is one I've never got the hang of, professional editor or not.

'Trouble glides behind' is a fine phrase, which I thought must have come from somewhere, but the only hit on Google for it was Sandra's blog. Well, I guess in due course there'll be two hits.

now that's what I call blogging 62

Nice pic of a Now CD with track listing made up of blogging themes.

wyatting (vb): when jukeboxes go mad

Interesting article in The Guardian on Wyatting: 'Just as the best way to judge an adult is by his or her record collection, the best way to judge a pub is by the albums on its jukebox. Or it was, until the 21st-century caught up with the noisy machine in the corner. There are now nearly 2,000 internet-connected jukeboxes in the UK, each of which can access as many as 2m tracks - and with them has come Wyatting, which is either a fearless act of situationist cultural warfare or a nauseatingly snobbish prank, depending on who you ask.'

Friday, 7 July 2006

psalm 13

A visiting preacher a few weeks ago made an interesting point about Psalm 13, saying that if you were given the text with verse 5 missing, you’d guess that v5 talked about how God had answered your prayers in your distress, leading to you to praise God. In fact, v5 is also about trusting and praising God - there’s no indication that the situation of distress has changed. Both encouraging and challenging.

Psalm 13, in fact, is one of the only Bible passages that I know by heart, essentially because the only tune I’ve ever properly made up was to these words (in the NIV version). Built around a chord sequence that U2 subsequently used in I Trip Through Your Wires.

I’m not sure I remember ever singing the metrical version in church before we used it at my father’s funeral.

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Monday, 3 July 2006

italia 90; germany 06; kate

In 1990 I saw England go out of the World Cup in a colleague's flat in Kennington; me, Kate and her partner Marcus. They were gutted; I'd only been in London a year, so wasn't quite as disappointed. Afterwards we went out to an empty Indian restaurant and had a very quiet meal. Seven years later I was working in an office just a few doors along, and one day the geography clicked and I remembered the flat and the restaurant.

On Saturday we were on a train back from Frinton for most of the game; no radio reception, Bethan had to stand in the door when it was open at stations to hear anything, until we were almost at Liverpool St. The others got home in time to see the end of normal time; I stayed and watched in a pub in the station - the noise which drew my attention to it, I realised soon after I went in, was the reaction to Rooney's sending off.

I don't think I've ever watched a match that mattered in a bar (I saw the 1990 third-place playoff in a pub with my parents where we were having a bar meal, I forget where - they were on holiday and I'd joined them for the weekend; I presume England lost, I don't remember - I really don't know why they bother with the third-place match). Rather more applauding than you'd imagine for something happening on a screen; a lot of shouting at key moments (mostly cheers for things that Portugal had failed at rather than England succeeding at); inevitable assumption that any refereeing decision against England was wrong (analysis over replays was always drowned out); mostly pretty civilised, people trying not to block each other's view. Within thirty seconds of Portugal's winning penalty, the place was virtually empty. I wondered about the kind of people who were watching the match in a station pub: mostly people like me, I guess, going to or from a train, or who had just finished work in the station or locally.

On the bus home, the driver went the wrong way, and had to do a u-turn, which is alway a childish delight. Two times on my way to work years ago the 43 went ahead instead of left at the Angel; ah, the simple pleasures.

The first time I was at a cinema where they applauded at the end of a film was down in London, for How To Get Ahead In Advertising. I thought it was a very pretentious thing to do; Kate (as above, coincidentally) didn't think so, and said the first time she'd seen it happen was after Jaws.

Since Kate has come up twice, here are some other things I remember about her: how she met Marcus on an African adventure holiday where one of their fellow holidaymakers had died when their truck/bus had crashed; how if she ever did karaoke - and I don't think she ever had - she would do Tainted Love; her dad's business was to do with motorway embankments; she rented her flat from one of the profs where we worked, and another prof had the same uncommon surname as her; she was from Derby, and thought the media coverage of football was London-biased (in response to my view that it was England-biased); a conversation with Julie the temp about bras (don't ask); she thought, reasonably, that referring to women as 'girls' was sexist when you wouldn't equivalently call men 'boys' (and I told her how my dad had recently told me on the phone that a boy from Ness had died; oh, how old was he, I asked; forty-three, he said (I don't remember the actual age and location, of course)); she was an English graduate who had applied to Ox/Cam but been given a completely ridiculous set of required results so it was obvious she was just not the kind of person they wanted (whereas someone else I knew was given an unconditional offer on the basis of a nice chatty interview). It's odd the things that remain.

I remember on 5Live at the end of the group stages, the interviewer asking someone from Portugal how they felt about playing England in the quarter final, 'if you make it' - no 'if' about England making it, apparently. Ask him again now, eh?

I was glad to see that quite a few England flags are still up, though; my country, win or lose. I've seen others still around, notably Ghanaian - it's just a nice excuse to fly your country's flag, I suppose.