Saturday, 28 March 2009

I was a male war bride; first of the few

We watched two old b&w films this week.

I Was A Male War Bride was quite good; a surprising combination of slow-moving action, with stretches and action that seemed reminiscent of silent films (particularly surprising from a 1949 film), and snappy dialogue. A fine reminder of what a great comic actor Cary Grant was. Based on a true story, it seems from Wikipedia.

The First of the Few was from 1942, about the development of the Spitfire. People can be a bit sniffy about these old patriotic films, but I find them quite moving, especially these ones made during the war. The user comments in the IMDB entry are interesting, with a number giving further factual information on the filming, which involved real aircrew on an active base. David Niven's character was fictional. Leslie Howard died the following year, shot down in a plane by the Germans; this was his last film, which he also produced and directed. Here's a history site dedicated to RJ Mitchell and the Spitfire.

Friday, 27 March 2009

a denarius

My latest notion is collecting coins. Not serious collecting; the first level is trying to get a coin of all the decimal coinage for every year; beyond that, it would be nice to get one coin for every year as far back as possible without spending more than pocket money, and I don't know when they started putting dates on the coins; beyond that it would be interesting to get a coin from every century. Just British coins. Cheapness is possible because quality isn't a big issue. What's interesting is how relatively cheap Roman coins can be, for example. Also proper coin sellers and stalls at coin fairs have 'pocket money' boxes that you can rake through. For Valentine's Day Bethan gave me ten threepences from different years going back to Victoria, a pound each I think from a box in a Cecil Court shop.

Coins are nice because they're objects that are in everyday use, and are clearly datable, and are relatively cheap. You're directly handling things people from that time used.

And for our anniversary Bethan gave me a Roman coin - cost unknown, but she assures me it was very affordable, from a Charing Cross Road shop. I think they told her what it was, but she didn't remember. I did some research online this evening, mainly on the tremendous 'guide to identifying Roman coins' section on the Portable Antiquities Scheme site run from the British Museum. I'm fairly confident that it's a denarius from the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD).

Some links. Wikipedia's entry on Septimius Severus; Not unusually, he persecuted Christians; less usually, he died in York. Google images of Septimius, of Septimius coins in general and denarii in particular.

It's extraordinary to think that that little coin in our hands is about eighteen centuries old, and that something that old isn't priceless. I don't know, but I guess that post-Roman coins are harder to come by for quite a number of centuries.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


I saw in the last few weeks what I think are the first rats I've ever seen in London in all these years. The first time was a few weeks ago on the pavement on Steedman Street. I did a double take before I took in what it was. It was by the wall, barely moving, with a smear of red on it, so I guess it wasn't long for this world. The second time was just a couple of days ago, a dead one near the top of one of the pedestrian underpasses at our roundabout.

They certainly reassured me that the tiny scampering things we have seen in our garden from time to time - but not for months - were mice rather than rats.

As someone has said, in London you're never more than ten feet away from someone telling someone that in London you're never more than ten feet away from a rat.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

three salon stories on religion

Come as you are: At Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Snoop Dogg figures in sermons, housewives cradle babies in tattooed arms -- and religious fundamentalism rules. Meet the Disciple Generation, the fierce new face of American evangelism.
- Salon, 13 September 2006

Dude, where's my cross? Stephen Baldwin preaches to teens that Bono is in league with Satan. Don't laugh, the born-again actor is a cultural advisor to Bush and one of the most popular new evangelists in the country.
- Salon, 9 October, 2006

What would Jesus do on spring break? In the middle of Daytona's annual season of sin, I went undercover with a group of evangelical Christians trying to convert drunk partygoers. God help me.
- Salon, 18 March 2009

Monday, 23 March 2009

woman in mind

On Friday we went out to see Woman In Mind, by Alan Ayckbourn, at the Vaudeville Theatre. I knew it wasn't selling out, as tickets were available at the half-price booth, and I also knew they were doing day seats, so I went along at ten and got two no bother (£16 each) - their day seats are in the very front row, and the stage wasn't too high. In fact there were only two other people in the front row, so they hadn't even sold all the day seats, and I heard people just a couple of rows back saying they'd got tickets at the half-price booth. They were bumping everyone up from the upper to the lower circle, but the circle and stalls were probably still less than half full.

It was a shame, because we enjoyed it a lot; you feel slightly embarrassed for the actors, and clap (and perhaps laugh) all the louder. It's a mystery sometimes why some plays are sell-outs and others are half-empty. The tourists go for the musicals, certainly, which is why so many of the theatres are clogged up with those, and non-musical theatre often complains about that. I always think Alan Ayckbourn is very like Tom Stoppard, except more populist and more prolific, and less critically acclaimed - I think they share the same interest in language, in playing with form and structure, in taking unusual ideas or scenarios and running with them. Playwrights go through fashions as well, more often driven by education syllabi than one might imagine, I suspect. There was quite a bit of Sheridan on when I came down, I'm sure, but I haven't seen that there's been any significant productions on for ages.

Reviews. Daily Telegraph. West End Whingers. Guardian. Independent. Time Out. Financial Times. Sunday Times. The Stage. London Theatre Guide. Variety. Open magazine.

Joanna David, who was to play the sister, was indisposed by press night, obviously, and by our time had been permanently replaced by Lavinia Bertram. Janie Dee in the main role was I think the only person I recognised, though I'm sure if I scoured the biogs I'd realise I'd seen the others in things before. Janie Dee and Paul Kemp as the doctor were particularly good, and the vicar was more sympathetic than some of the reviews make out, but everyone was pretty good.

A lot of the reviews seem to refer to breakdown rather than brain injury, though that's what I think the implication of the language deterioration at start and finish is. The play was made extra poignant by seeing it so soon after Natasha Richardson's death from a brain injury, similarly dismissed as nothing after an apparently trivial accident.

This is Alan Ayckbourn's official site.

the library of alexandria

Probably the only thing I'll remember about the In Our Time episode on the library of Alexandria is that the only thing I thought I knew about it - that it was burnt down - probably isn't true. Several people are said to have burned it down, but it seems more likely that it was just a case of neglect, decline and decay.

'well, that certainly brought back a lot of memories'

A few weeks ago a listener in Melbourne wrote in to the Kermode/Mayo film review section on Radio 5 to say that when he and his partner were watching Doubt (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, key plot point being whether or not the priest abused a boy), as the credits rolled they overheard a group of elderly ladies exclaim, 'Well, that certainly brought back a lot of memories!' The listener couple decided they would now say this at the end of every film they saw.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

prefabs on excalibur estate, catford, listed

Safe as prefabs – Grade II listing preserves second world war relics: Culture department protects handful of 'temporary' homes from the bulldozer on biggest surviving estate in UK
- Guardian, 17 March

as jurors turn to web, mistrials are popping up

As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping Up
Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.
Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, a waste of eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.
“We were stunned,” said a defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he had been on the verge of winning the case. “It’s the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head.”
It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.
- New York Times, 17 March

dads and playground etiquette

The only dodgy beard in the playground: I'm not the only man in the playground. But sometimes I feel like the only man in the playground. I used to be the only man in the playground, a few years ago, when our first child started school and I was doing the drop-off and pick-up entirely among women, but not now.
- Guardian, 15 October 2005

keep calm and carry on

What crisis? It's the pin-up of our age, gracing homes, shops - even a US embassy. Jon Henley on the poster we just can't stop buying
- Guardian, 18 March

Monday, 16 March 2009

polish spitfire

Alex's link to a Scientology story on The Register led me to this story on the site of the BNP using a photo of a Spitfire in one of their posters which was actually from a Polish squadron. They picked it up from this Daily Telegraph article of 4 March: 'BNP uses Polish Spitfire in anti-immigration poster: BNP bosses have been ridiculed for using a Polish Spitfire to front a campaign calling for Eastern European immigrants to be barred from Britain.'

geddy lee's parents

Something surprising I learned today: Geddy Lee's parents were concentration camp survivors.

online feedback for the public sector

It's been a good week for transparency, which is bad news for people who get undressed with the light on. Last Tuesday, Gordon Brown said: "We have clearly got the balance wrong when online businesses have higher standards of transparency than the public services" and announced that, as a result, people are going to be able to comment online about GPs, hospitals, nurseries, schools and the police, just like they can on Amazon, eBay, TripAdvisor and, indeed, the Observer website.

I expect that'll sort everything out. The prime minister is deploying what he calls "the enormous democratising power of information". Well, you don't have to do much surfing to find books, CDs, YouTube clips, newspaper articles, restaurants and theatre shows that have all had the shit democratised out of them. He's invoking the collective wisdom of the nation to pass judgment on and improve our public services. Unfortunately, he'll mainly attract the same self-selecting bunch of inexplicably livid weirdos who infect the comment sections on all websites.

There are many perfectly reasonable remarks put online, and others that are only bland or harmlessly nonsensical, but if there's one thing the internet demonstrates it's that a lot of angry people can read. Their writing, on the other hand, needs work. If you're in any doubt, go to which provides a hilarious selection of the most illiterate, prejudiced and irate posts from the BBC's Have Your Say site. It not only makes me laugh, it makes me angry at what people write, thus providing a moment's insight into what it feels like to be a member of the incensed posting community.
- David Mitchell, Observer, 15 March

Here's the website he mentions, Speak You're Branes. It's not restricted to BBC comments now. They vary in unpleasantness of course (and the blogger's comments are a bit swearier than I might like), but this entry on the front page was tremendous in the barking madness of its theory:

'The astoundingly insightful Canuckie has finally identified who really pulls the strings, and without any help from facts, logic or evidence.
"A military muslim interpretor, or translator makes the same money in one year that a contract security guard does in ten years. I think you see the incentive the military muslim interpretors, and translators have in keeping any lucrative muslim/ Christian conflict going - canuckie"
'Odd. You would have thought the vastly powerful interpretation-translation complex would have more to gain from promoting jaw-jaw.'

apparently cleopatra didn't look like liz taylor

Cleopatra's mother 'was African': Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharaoh, renowned for her beauty, was part African, says a BBC team which believes it has found her sister's tomb.
- BBC, 16 March. A peculiar non-story.

jon stewart vs tv finance gurus

America cheers as satirist delivers knockout blow to TV finance gurus: For the past 10 days the US has been gripped. Even President Obama tuned in as the country's foremost TV comic, Jon Stewart, unleashed an extraordinary broadside against TV's top financial commentators for their part in the unfolding economic crisis.
- Guardian, 15 March

craig charles

Interesting interview with Craig Charles from today's Guardian. He's had his ups and downs.

By the final series, Red Dwarf was drawing audiences of almost nine million. Many fans were puzzled that its ending, when it came, seemed so inexplicably abrupt.

"Well, it wasn't supposed to end! It was supposed to go on to be a film. We wanted to go and make the movie, but every year it never happened. We were all just gearing up for the movie, and so we all went and got our teeth done - and then the money never came through. So we were all really out of pocket with these Hollywood teeth that cost something like 20 grand, which the film company was going to pay for. And then all of a sudden there's no bloody film, and we've all got these new teeth."

Saturday, 14 March 2009

health and safety

Interesting article in today's Guardian on health and safety legislation, which has some interesting examples of things done in the name of H&S, and also a nice link to the HSE's 'myth of the month' page, where they recount stories which aren't true of things said to have been required by health and safety rules.

quotes on barack

Interesting quote in interview in today's Guardian Guide with Jill Scott, singer and No1 Ladies actress:
'There are a lot of people in the United States of America quoting Martin Luther King since Barack Obama became the first African American president. I think they're fooling themselves because Martin Luther King's dream was that a man be judged by the content of his character, not by the colour of his skin. I was in Africa filming The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency when I found out he'd been elected and I was thrilled, not because he's a black man but because he's an intelligent man. So far, in a lot of his decisions, he's been very strategic; he's playing chess and I love it.'

In the euphoria after the election Danny Baker said something to the effect that we shouldn't get too carried away, because while he is indeed the first black man to become president, he's not the first politician to become president.

facebook and dunblane

The ties that don't bind: Gregarious online communities are a myth - I want out of this fake global village

How many friends do you have, and how many do you need? I only ask because, in an orgy of promiscuous electronic friendship in the last few years, many of us have been gathering friends like they're going out of stock. My own Facebook friends are a diverse bunch, ranging from Ming Campbell to Garry Bushell.

The problem is I know hardly any of them. And according to Facebook's resident sociologist Dr Cameron Marlow, I am not alone. The average number of "friends" in a Facebook network, Marlow tells us, is 120. Most of them, however, keep themselves to themselves. The number of friends that the average male user of Facebook exchanges messages with is, apparently, seven. Female Facebookers are more gregarious, and communicate with 10.

It is easy to see how the rest mount up. There's something of the playground about Facebook, an instinctive, almost tribal urge to show off how many people are in your gang. Sometimes this can be quite literal; gang members in prisons, according to the Sun, are using Facebook to send out group photos and expand their limited social circle. Add too many electronic friends, however, and it rather defeats the point of having a gang in the first place.

Then there is the problem of quality control. Last week, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Dunblane massacre, a reporter from the Sunday Express managed to inveigle her way into a Facebook friendship with teenagers from the town and write a salacious piece about their "antics", based on information culled from their profiles. The blogosphere went ballistic, but it was too late.
- Guardian, 14 March

the whine of the ancient mariner

The whine of the ancient mariner
You remember the Ancient Mariner? He shanghaied a wedding guest who beat his breast when he heard the loud bassoon (an understandable reaction, I always felt, for I am not musical). One of Coleridge's better efforts - and powerfully reprised last night in Coronation Street.

Steve and Becky got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout, not stopping to wonder why the only date available was Friday 13th. The registrar (Robert Austin) took it very badly. Couples usually gave Friday 13th a wide berth, and he had planned a bracing day on the reservoir ("I've got an 18-footer. It's quite a sight in full sail"). It dawned on you with grisly inevitability that this was the Ancient Mariner himself even down to the grey beard. And he had a captive audience in the groom. They were alone, as the best man had been barred for betting on the outcome and the bride was six sheets to the wind on Thunderclap Cider ("A cheeky little vintage with just a hint of marker pen. £1.99 for three litres").

First the Old Salt tried to scupper the wedding with goose-pimpling yarns. "Take the last one I did on Friday 13th. Packed house ... square-jawed groom ... blushing bride. She wasn't blushing. She'd had a reaction to the hydrangeas in her bouquet. The poor lass must have looked like the Singing Detective in her photos." Failing ("Well, it's your funeral"), he spoke at length about life on the bounding reservoir. "It's glorious out there! Brisk nor-westerly. She'd be cutting through spume like a knife through low-fat bread! Oh, there's nothing like the rise and fall of the briny!" Time passed slowly like a month in the doldrums or a day in Gravesend. "Well," he said at last, "I'll be out on the poop."

The bride arrived finally like a pink hot air balloon, with Roy and Hayley hanging helplessly on to her ropes, and deflated at his feet. "This is Weatherfield not Las Vegas!" said Captain Implacable, grinding a tooth or two. And weighed anchor. There is probably something in the small print about not getting wed while legless.

So. The bride thinks she is married and the groom knows they are not. Which sounds like the best of all worlds to me.

- another great tv column from Nancy Banks-Smith (definitely too many there to go back and read) in today's Guardian, which is also a reminder of how much funnier Coronation Street has always been than the other soaps.

london pedestrians will have to walk faster under boris johnson plan

London pedestrians will have to walk faster under Boris Johnson plan.
Pedestrians will be made to walk faster on crossings under a plan favouring motorists that Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has proposed. Digital signs that count down the seconds until cars get a green light would be introduced at 6,000 sets of lights. Those on foot will lose up to six seconds of crossing time during each phase. The signs are part of the mayor’s plan to give more green time to traffic at the expense of pedestrians. He hopes that pedestrians will either speed up as they see the countdown approaching zero or, if they are slow walkers, wait at the kerb for the next green man phase. Mr Johnson hopes that the extra green time will smooth the flow of traffic and help to cope with the increase in cars expected next year when he halves the size of the congestion charge zone.
- Times, 11 March

eric carle

This one's got legs: He grew up in Nazi Germany and went on to become the most beloved of children's authors. Today, he receives 10,000 fan letters a year. Emma Brockes meets of The Very Hungry Caterpillar's author
- Guardian, 14 March (ie today, which makes this possibly the closest to publication time I've ever noted something from a newspaper here)

sanchez and nevin

I get the podcast of Fighting Talk and enjoy it. Two titbits I picked up from it in recent months, from the horses' mouths:

Lawrie Sanchez's brother made more than he did from the 1988 FA Cup Final, in which he scored the winning goal for Wimbledon against Liverpool, because his brother put a bet on while the Wimbledon team was just on the regular win bonus.

While playing for Tranmere, Pat Nevin was fined by the manager John Aldridge on a team trip to Dublin for not going out on the town and getting drunk but going to a museum or art gallery instead.

Friday, 13 March 2009

presidents and teleprompters

Obama Sticks to the Script
- interesting article from the New York Times of 5 March on US Presidents and their use of teleprompters

caine, chaplin and chaucer

I knew that Michael Caine was born in Bermondsey - I've seen the blue plaque - but not that he grew up in Elephant & Castle.

There is no shortage of Charlie Chaplin sites in this area; his family was poor and moved around a lot. I'll just note here that he was born in East Street - site unknown, which I guess is why the (Southwark/'unofficial') blue plaque at the end of the street is vague.

Fictionally, Chaucer's pilgrim's started from the Tabard Inn in Southwark. According to Wikipedia - and it seems a good entry - the site isn't linked with Tabard Street, surprisingly, but Talbot Yard, nearer The George, where (according to the Cuming Museum info sheet) it was part of a string of pilgrim-friendly inns along Borough High Street; I don't think I've noticed the blue plaque the entry mentions.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

football in dress shirts

The Strangest Cup Kit Ever?
"I read a report recently in some footie trivia compendium that claimed a Blackburn Olympic side had to play an FA Cup final in the late 1880s in white tailored dress shirts, due to a clash of colours with the opposition," writes an astounded Daryl Vodden. "Is this madness really true, and is this the most ludicrous 'kit' to ever grace the Cup final?"
Unfortunately, Daryl, it's not true. It was in fact Blackburn Rovers who were forced to play in white dress shirts against Sheffield Wednesday, and it occured in 1890. Rovers arrived in south London (the final was to be held at the Kennington Oval) only to find that Wednesday were also intending to play in blue and white shirts. This problem was solved by a quick trip to a London tailor, who provided Blackburn with nice, neat white dress shirts. They didn't seem to hinder the Lancastrian side, with Rovers winning this particular war of the roses 6-1.
- another gem from The Guardian's Knowledge, 4 March issue

cy, io and rx

In our family our names have all got two letters. Daddy liked them because they're quite religious, like Io's like the moon and Rx means king.
- from an interview with Cy, 8, in the 'interview with a child' feature in the Saturday Guardian magazine, 7 March. I'm sure I won't have been the only person to send this to Private Eye's Pseuds Corner

bob pegg in highland arts

A long article by Bob Pegg on his involvement in arts in the Highlands. Mentions the Highland Youth Theatre, and seems to confirm my suspicion that the Ewan Morrison I've heard of in recent years is the Ewan who was at HYT when I was.

The same Hi-Arts email also brings an interview with Fiona Mackenzie, one of Sheila's singing sisters.

market forces

Market forces: Many men consider buying sex as just another form of shopping, but their attitude is fuelling the trafficking of women to work in the trade
- Guardian, 22 August 2007

almost a definition of science fiction

AS OTHERS SEE US. Literary agent Julie Barer marvels: 'This is going to sound crazy, but I read a novel this summer that blew me away, and it's science fiction. I'm not usually drawn to science fiction, but it was so inventive and original and smart, and it took me somewhere I'd never been.' (_Poets & Writers_, January/February 2009)
- from March's Ansible

cherie blair: christians are marginalised

Cherie Blair: Christians are marginalised: Christians are being marginalised in society, Cherie Blair has claimed.
- Telegraph, 28 February

'all-black' eastenders complaints

BBC receives almost 250 complaints over 'all-black' EastEnders
- Guardian, 2 March. Extraordinary.

ipod penalty research

Brave Foster emerges as United's hero, thanks to a spot of research • Goalkeeper reveals iPod secret for shoot-out • He'll be England's No1 for years, says Ferguson
- Guardian, 1 March. I'm surprised they were allowed to use technology like that during the game.

four out of five britons repudiate creationism

Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism • Belief map shows support for Darwin's theories • God and evolution can be compatible, says thinktank
- Guardian, 2 March

footballers' superstition

Arsenal's novel nine-man approach adds to Wenger's grey hairs
• Arsenal coach admits fault for central defenders' absence
• Frenchman says pleasing display merited further goals
Arsène Wenger's legendary myopia makes it impossible for him to blame his team for any deficiencies but last night he could find no excuse for the fact that his team began the second half of their 1–0 win over Roma with only nine men. As the game restarted, the central defensive pairing of Kolo Touré and William Gallas were nowhere to be seen.
The bizarre episode was sparked by Touré's superstition that he must be last out of the dressing room. "It is our fault," said Wenger. "When the bell rings you have to be ready to go out. It's explainable by the fact Kolo is always going out last and he waited for William, who had treatment and was putting his boots on and strappings. They didn't know the game had started without them."
Wenger was mild in his rebuke of Touré, who was booked for trying to ­rectify his tardiness by running straight on to the pitch to join the game without an invitation from the referee. "All players have their habits," he added. "Superstition exists in our sport. But this kind of thing doesn't make you any younger."
- Guardian, 25 February

bible moved to library top shelf over inequality fears

Bible moved to library top shelf over inequality fears: Librarians have been advised to move the Bible to the top shelves to appease religious concerns in the Islamic community
- Telegraph, 18 February. The head and subhead are a spin on the story, really.

the march of the atheist movement

The march of the atheist movement: First it was a bus, now a student body has been formed to spread the secular word
- Independent, 20 February

david and sylvio

Italy unmoved by Berlusconi bribe case: The British corporate lawyer, David Mills, has been found guilty of accepting a bribe in return for giving false evidence in two court cases.
- BBC, 18 February. The most striking thing about this story is that the person who did the bribing is going free and no one seems that fussed. It's hard to imagine the same reaction in this country.

living with teenagers

Further to my note on 'down with the kids', the person who wrote the previous column I didn't like turns out to be the author of the bookfuss of the moment:

Myerson revealed as writer of column about teens: Author of 'The Lost Child' admits that she has written about her children before
- Independent, 11 March

Living with the Myersons: For years the identity of the author of the much-loved Living with Teenagers column has been a mystery. Becky Gardiner explains why she kept the secret – and why the writer has come clean
- Guardian, 10 March

Later: also found this article by Ian Jack (whose columns I often appreciate) in the Guardian of 7 March (which I guess was written before the column revelation):
Publish and be damned: Her son says she is 'insane'. Her husband says she's 'devastated at what she's done'. Pundits have been quick to condemn her. So was novelist Julie Myerson right to write about her son's drug use?

is this the real shakespeare?

A new view: is this the real Shakespeare? Research suggests painting is the only portrait from life, leading expert says
- Guardian, 10 March

absent singer

Metallica cancel Swedish concert: US metal band Metallica were forced to call off a concert in Stockholm, Sweden at the weekend after the band's lead singer James Hetfield fell ill.
- BBC, 10 March

I sometimes think acts could be more imaginative in how they deal with such situations, turn it into something special rather than a disappointment. Something like, we'll come on in thirty minutes; if you leave before then you'll get your money back; if you stay, you'll pay, or pay reduced, and we'll do something different, like use the audience as a singer en masse, or play things we don't usually play, or so on.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

e&c skyscrapers

Skyscrapercity is a forum-based site on tall buildings built, being built and planned, for skyscraper-lovers. They have a London section with threads on individual projects, including Eileen House, the Oakmayne Plaza and the general E&C development. They are very thorough with plans, artists impressions and photos.

Amusingly, they refer to the more negative coverage these and other developments in the area get on the SE1 Direct forum, which I see also. Here's the SE1 article on the Eileen House development, and the forum thread. Thread on Oakmayne Plaza. This is the thread on the Strata/Castle House tower, the one actually going up near us. As one comment says, 'I'm sure this one is only getting built now as the developer got the timing right and sold pretty much all of the flats about 18 months ago......otherwise I'm sure it would have the same fate as the London Park Hotel Site and Oakmayne Plaza - laying empty.....'. Here's a photo of ours going up.

This story on a new E&C shopping centre logo indicates that the redevelopment's not going to start before 2012.

This site, The Car and the Elephant, tells about the post-war redevelopment of the E&C.

the world in one city

Found this some time ago, didn't realise I hadn't noted it here:

The World In One City: Two shy Englishmen attempt to meet the world without leaving London.
This is a project that Owen Powell and Alex Horne started on October 24th, 2006 (United Nations Day), and finished on October 24th, 2007. Our aim was to prove that London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, by endeavouring to meet and chat to a citizen from every country in the world who currently lives and works in London. We managed to meet people from 189 countries. According to the UN, there are 192 countries in the world, so we've proved that at the very least, London contains over 98.4% of the nations of the world!

They only didn't find people from three countries: Marshall Islands, Palau and Tuvalu.

Monday, 9 March 2009

darwin: let’s get the history right

Darwin: let’s get the history right
- Telegraph blog entry of 9 February by Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute. I'd been looking to see if his article in September 2008's Christianity - 'Evolution - the hand of God?' (in which he 'argues why no-one has to choose between evolution and faith') was online, but it's behind a subscription wall there.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

environmentalists and nuclear power

You may not have noticed but four leading environmentalists, including Stephen Tindale, the former director of Greenpeace, and Chris Goodall, a Green party candidate, have come out in favour of nuclear power. Tindale now says it is the only way we can fight climate change and that it was "like a religious conversion". Mark Lynas, an environmental scientist, says now that opposing nuclear power was "a colossal mistake". He thinks the ferocious anti-nuclear campaign waged by the greens in the 1970s and 1980s will have devastating effects for the climate.

Now they tell us. I have been banging on for ages about how environmentalism is essentially a religious experience. Like religion it requires great faith, and is similarly subject to apostasy and conversion. And, might I ask, if these people admit to having been wrong for so many years, why should we trust them now?
- Simon Hoggart, Guardian, 28 February

bad science

Another Saturday Guardian column I enjoy regularly is Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (295 in that series so far; think I'll resist the temptation). Last week's was on why 'Spying on 60 million people doesn't add up'.

down with the kids

I'm enjoying a new column in the Saturday Guardian, Down with the kids, by Chris Cleave, a father of young children. Actually, finding and linking to that page I see it's not that new; but - dangerously - still new enough that I could go back and read online the ones I've missed... Much better than the column I think it replaced, the awful depressing one by the mum trodden down by her awful teenagers.

the pitmen painters

On Friday 13 February, while my mother was down, Bethan and I ate at Giraffe then went to see The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall (who wrote the Billy Elliot screenplay). We enjoyed it, though we enjoyed the first half more than the second, which seemed to be more disjointed and with more individual people making points rather than the group interaction of the first half. In covering the ground in such a short time inevitably some of the characters and opinions become less nuanced and more caricatured than might be desired. Based on a very interesting true story of a group of miners who took up painting and became known as the Ashington Group. They project images of the artwork on screen at appropriate times. No one well-known in it, but did include people who looked like Peter Sallis, Peter Sellers in I'm Alright Jack, and Bob Mortimer.

Some reviews (some from the original run in the Cottesloe rather than the Lyttelton, where we saw it). The Independent. Music OMH. Observer (which puts it well that it's a good combination of a good night out and serious matter, although it's more generous to the speechifying than I would be). Evening Standard. Time Out (whose view of the two halves is exactly the opposite of ours). A detailed Guardian article by William Feaver, who wrote the book on which the play was based. West End Whingers (those boys certainly see a lot of theatre - remarkably, there's a comment from Ian Kelly, who plays the lecturer, to say that he does indeed draw the sketch portrait from scratch during the play rather than over faint lines, which was indeed quite impressive). What's On Stage review and review round-up. The Times. Guardian. The Telegraph (a review of the original production in Newcastle). Interval Drinks blog (which I haven't come across before but has obviously been going for a while, and has a set of links to other theatre blogs which makes me hesitate to follow them all - here's an interesting article in the Guardian Theatre blog by the same writer, Natasha Tripney, on being the only person in the audience for a performance, with an interesting thread of comments of similar experiences).

Friday, 6 March 2009

three more city churches

After the meeting at the Mansion House on Wednesday, I visited three more city churches: St Michael Paternoster Royal (Wikipedia; Google images), St James Garlickhythe (official; Wikipedia; Google images) and St Mary Aldermary (official; Wikipedia; Google images).

The most notable thing about St Michael's is that Dick Whittington is buried there with his wife Alice. I arrived at St James when a lunchtime service was about to begin - the bell was ringing - but the sign said you were welcome to come in and look around while the service was on. The only people in the service were the priest and the man who had been ringing the bell; another couple of tourists were in but didn't stay long; I stayed longer, but didn't really feel that comfortable about it. I think the priest would have done his stuff supposing the bellringer hadn't been there. I noticed the scallop shells, which it turns out indicate that it's a location on the English pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella. There were builders having a break in St Mary's, obviously working on the outside. I may go back there as there was a sign saying they sell cheap Roman coins, which I presume will be a reliable source, and coins are one of my latest 'things'. It was a very attractive white ceiling, and the coloured ceiling at the altar end was odd, wider at one side than the other, which you notice as odd from further back then it becomes clear what's odd as you get closer to it. The official site says 'It will be noticed that the east wall lies at an angle; this is because, when originally built, the wall followed the line of an existing passageway.'


From Word magazine, August 2008:

The citizens of Nina Simone's home town of Tryon, North Carolina contributed to a fund to pay for her piano lessons from her teacher, Mrs Massinovitch. At one of her early public recitals, her parents were moved from the front of the audience to be replaced by a white couple. She refused to continue until they were able to resume their seats.

Radio ventriloquist Peter Brough had his front two teeth filed half away to help him throw his voice. When he transferred to TV, everyone could see his lips move, and that was the end of that: he went back to running the family textile business.

A nice feature on buying records from little record shops in your youth. David Quantick's shop was Lawes Radio of Exmouth, Devon. 'Essentially (as the name suggests) a shop that sold radios and stuff, Lawes had decided that competing with Smiths and Boots by selling chart records was a waste of time, so they sold... only records played by John Peel or reviewed in Sounds and NME! Once they even had a window display - that's a display in the window! - of singles on Crass's label. And let's not even mention the 'bargain box' where you could get every single by XTC for a quid. Life since then has been something of a disappointment, musically.'

One of Randy Newman's Words to the Wise: 'Save your best stuff for home. I don't do this. You know how you joke around and laugh with your friends or a woman and then you get home? As soon as you're there, you're, "Yeah. Hmm. Uhh. Mm-mm." You slip into it. You forget that probably the reason why you fell in love with your husband or wife or whoever was that you were getting the best stuff then. Once you're married, the best stuff's somewhere else.'


This month's Rudhach, as well as having a photo of the Aird school choir from my era and a photo of some of the boys at Italia 90, including Peter next door, has a little mention in Katie Ann Red's account of her cruise that the postcard she sent to her church friends in Edinburgh turned out to be of a nudist beach (a beach which she had seen, but didn't realise the postcard was of it). Sending inappropriate postcards by accident is easily done, I think.

carl trueman articles

The Freedom of the Christian Market

Since arriving in the US some seven years ago, I have become accustomed to questions asking me what it is like to come from a socialist country. Now, I'm not sure exactly what constitutes a 'socialist' country; but in the popular American imagination it seems to focus on the provision of a national (or `socialised') health service. The merits and demerits of such a system are often debated on anecdotal evidence - good experiences here, bad experiences there. Few Americans (or British people) I have met have any real mastery of the economic arguments pro and con; but passions run deep on both sides of the debate.

Ironically, of course, the last few weeks have seen America become more of a socialist country than the UK has ever been. After a series of catastrophic crises on the financial markets, the federal government seems to be stepping in to bail out the banking system. In short, one could provocatively state this in the following terms: the government is in the process of nationalizing the banks. Forget the NHS; when the government buys the banks, your savings, and your debts, that is socialism.

The irony is, I hope, not lost on those on the Christian Right who so closely identify biblical Christianity with the American way of free marketeering.
- Carl Trueman on the website, though I read this first when reprinted in the Monthly Record - where he has a regular column - in January 2009.

The February 2009 article, 'The hermeneutics of sexual insecurity', was also interesting. (It's on p14-15, and the next article is also interesting, a Free Press article on Iain Macaskill in Uist.)
Extract: Numerous thoughts came to mind as I read the article. Her reference to 'universal truths’ is intriguing, given the cultural relativism which otherwise really pervades the entire piece. The 'universal truths’ to which she refers seem to be rather oriented towards very recent, and pretty specifically Western, attitudes to homosexuality. One cannot help feel that 'universal truths’ here seem to mean 'modern Western ideals’; and, putting her thoughts together with Brueggemann, it would seem that, while she regards individual passages of the Bible as teaching one thing, the overall thrust of the Bible apparently teaches something different. The whole runs counter to the sum of the parts.

His articles are often interesting, and I think also often demonstrate the freedom a Christian academic has to express his opinions forthrightly compared to his colleagues in pastoral ministries, and the cut and thrust of academic debate is as cutting and thrusting as any church politics (as I think is demonstrated in the final exchange on Andy McGowan's book in the January 2009 Record).

bank robber writes note on own payslip

Chicago bank robber leaves behind pay slip with name and address: Man allegedly robbed bank using a threatening note written on the back of his own pay slip
- Guardian, 29 December

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

city temple; st andrew's holborn; st martin ludgate

In December, being on Holborn Viaduct earlier than CLC opened, I popped into City Temple (official; Wikipedia) and St Andrew's Holborn (official; Wikipedia; interior photos). City Temple is unremarkable; St Andrew's is older but unremarkable compared to other City Anglican churches.

Interesting that St Andrew's was on top of a hill but now sits below the viaduct level. Connection with two hospitals:
'It was on this church's steps in 1827 that William Marsden found a woman dying, inspiring him to set up the Royal Free Hospital in Greville Street for the poor and destitute, which later moved to Gray’s Inn Road and is now in Hampstead.'
'Thomas Coram, founder of the Foundlings’ Hospital (first set up in a house in Hatton Garden) is buried here, his remains were translated from his foundation in the 1960s. The organ casing (an organ played by Handel), the pulpit and the font is also from the Foundlings’ Hospital Chapel's Bloomsbury site.' (both Wikipedia)
The most interesting thing there was a carving/relief of the last judgement which was set in the outside wall of the church. That, and the fact that the sign for the workmen outside was written in English and what I guess was Polish.

A week later I visited St Martin within Ludgate (official; Wikipedia; interior photos). I remember nothing about it, although the church website reminds me about the fake bread on the old breadshelves.

two days out

Two weekends ago we went on two outings.

On the Friday we went to the Bekonscot Model Village, which was the dullest day out I've had for a long time. I was the member of our party who enjoyed it least, however. There was a charity shop in the town which made the day better.

On the Saturday we went to the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, which was much better. We hadn't been before, but it's free and only about forty minutes up the northern line, with a ten-minute walk at the other end. Packed with aircraft and information, I'd go again anytime - we would take packed lunches, as the food was expensive and not great, but that would be no problem. And even though it was the end of half-term, it wasn't too busy. I find the WWII planes in particular to be beautiful objects. It's also striking to be reminded just how short the history of flight has been, and how quickly it developed. Wright brothers' flight December 1903, moon landing July 1969.

Monday, 2 March 2009

city of london churches - some links

Britain Express entry on some City of London medieval churches.

A list of City of London churches from the GenDocs site, which includes all the vanished churches also.

The Friends of City Churches site.

Our Past History section on some City churches.

london's roman wall - links

Wikipedia's entry on the London Wall.

Britain Express map of Roman London.

London Footprints' walk along route of wall.

Jim Gunnee's Flickr photoset of his walk along that route.

Dick Schmitt's photo site ditto.

Alan Eisen's Flickr set ditto.

H2G2 entry on the City Gates.

'you're getting married, mr wright'

Watching a documentary about the Beverley Sisters. Reached the bit where Joy and Billy Wright were getting married; they headed down to Poole by car, with her sisters, for a quiet wedding. As they approached Poole the traffic got worse; then in Poole it was almost at a standstill, with people rowding the pavement; just our luck, they thought, we've picked a day to get married in Poole when something big is on; we're going to be very late. Billy Wright wound down the window and asked a policeman what it was that was going on: 'You're getting married, Mr Wright,' he said. Someone had leaked the story.