Friday, 31 December 2010

british museum

On Tuesday afternoon, while the older and younger generation went to see the production of The Railway Children which has been running successfully in the Eurostar terminal in Waterloo, Bethan and I went to the British Museum for the first time in ages.

(The o&y generations enjoyed the Railway Children, as they also enjoyed the two other productions they've been to see together these holidays, Faeries at the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio on Saturday 18th and Bagpuss at the Soho Theatre on Thursday 23rd, although they agreed that they were probably both too old for the latter.)

The Museum, to our surprise, was heaving, packed with tourists. We did justice to the Assyrian rooms, and had a quick trot through Europe (there's a limit to how much you can take in in one visit, spending most time in the Roman Britain room, concluding with a look at our old friends the Lewis chessmen (many of whom are on a Scottish tour at the moment, including Stornoway next year).

It was surprising to realise how few sites all the Assyrian material was from (how different might our understanding of this and other civilisations be if different locations had been preserved or excavated). The wall panels and statues were well-preserved and huge; excavating them and transporting them home was no mean feat. The carvings are so full of detail, so much information communicated to the archaeologists about the way of life then, which would perhaps otherwise have been lost. It also seemed almost wilfully perverse that in most of the information panels they didn't contextualise the Assyrian Empire and the artefacts with more reference to Old Testament history, which is still where most people who have heard of the Assyrians before will have heard of them.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

ministry of food

On Monday we went to the Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, on wartime rationing.

In the morning we had watched The Polar Express, recorded previously, which wasn't as bad as I'd feared.

no web access at home for 2m poor pupils

No web access at home for 2m poor pupils, warns charity: E-learning Foundation fears gap between rich and poor at school will widen unless more get home internet access
(Guardian, 28 December)

The charity analysed a survey of family spending in Britain, published by the Office for National Statistics last year. The study found that 75% of households had a home computer and 71% had an internet connection, a rise of three and five percentage points respectively on 2008. In the richest 10% of homes, 98% had a home computer and 97% had internet access, but in the poorest 10% of homes only 38% had a home computer and 30% an internet connection. Connection to the internet was lowest in Northern Ireland, where 57% of homes could log on, and highest in the south-east and London, where 72% of homes could access the internet.

forty elephants girl gang

Girl gang's grip on London underworld revealed: Ruthless, all-female Forty Elephants gang ran capital's biggest shoplifting racket, according to new book (Guardian, 27 December)

Monday, 27 December 2010

filming in the area, and near church

Something we did learn at Open Studios was what it was they had been filming in Iliffe Street, when they redecorated the street as grubby old London town. It was The King's Speech, soon to be released. Clint Eastwood's Hereafter also filmed at the Pullens Yards; we knew he had been filming in the Heygate Estate.

The Heygate is often used for filming scenes of inner-city decay, squalor and crime, especially now that it's almost entirely empty. Harry Brown, with Michael Caine, was also filmed there. The most recent crew I noticed there on the way past to work was for Law and Order: UK.

The space left by the petrol station at the top of Walworth Road, our side (there were a pair opposite each other, the other one's still there), was often used as a base for filming units, probably usually filming in the Heygate, including the Bill. They're building on that site now, more student accommodation I think.

So the non-Heygate filming is a nice contrast of subject matter.

Also recently out was London Boulevard, which did some filming in our local pub, the Hampton Court Palace. There was a poster up recruiting extras at the time, and the day of filming I saw chaps hanging around in suits. I don't imagine the scene was very long, as they weren't there long.

As our church is in the City, we have often seen film units, as the city is so empty at weekends. Most recently they were filming beside my bus stop back from church. While I was waiting for the bus they did a couple of takes of Ashley Jensen walking past the bus stop, on her mobile, looking up at the building next to it, then going in. There were certainly people between me and the camera acting, but they may just have been there for shape, and I'm sure they'll have done other takes subsequently - quite a group of people accumulated at the bus stop who when asked by someone trying to get the filming done all claimed they were waiting for a bus, so the best she could do was ask them not to stand in the way or look at the camera. It was filming for an ITV drama; we'll have to look out for it.

Some links. Pullens Yard photos of Kings Speech filming and some other filming. SE1 Direct thread re Clint Heygate filming. Film London location item re Harry Brown in particular. Evening Standard article on Harry Brown and Heygate from 8 July. A Flickr set by Greenwood100 of the Iliffe Street filming.

Guardian, 3 September 2010 (may have posted this before): South London's Heygate estate mourned by locals – and Hollywood: Crumbling flats provided gritty, urban backdrop for Clint Eastwood film and TV shows including The Bill and Spooks

Finally, a set of links relating to the Heygate and the gentrification of the area, some interesting and historical content, but I have little patience with those against the latter and romanticising the former. The Heygate Estate - the Elephant Circus. Live from the Heygate. Southwark Notes (with sections on Heygate, Walworth, Elephant and others). A set of photos on Flickr.

A quotation from the Southwark Notes one on the transformation of the St Mary Newington park from an unpleasant and undesirable patch you wouldn't want to go in or through to a pleasant space with a well-equipped playpark, which well represents the nonsensical attitude:

'St Mary Newington park right by the Elephant was one place of desolate semi-tranquility where there was nothing but roses, trees and grass. It was nothing special but was strangely special. The Council reckons it attracted ‘anti-social behaviour’. All we saw were dog walkers, picnicing locals, frisbee players and psychogeographers all seeming to be enjoying this pagan land quite so socially. After a grant from the London Development Agency, the former open-space has been rejigged into something a bit more colourful. There’s a nice kids play area but some awful orange belisha beacons and b+w stone balls on the grass area. Enjoyment of the space seems more or less no different from before. Community wardens still go there and take notes on anti-social behaviour.'

pullens yards open studios

At last made it to the Pullens Yards Open Studios at the start of this month, though we didn't buy anything apart from fudge and making a donation to the bird sanctuary which had brought along the owls.

Links. Pullens Yards. Iliffe Yard. Clements Yard. Pullens Yards on Facebook.

free church singing

The last two Sunday mornings Bethan has played keyboard for carols in our morning service (and for the psalm in the service two Sundays ago, which was probably our first service without a precentor at all, as well as the first service with a keyboard); three mornings ago I precented Little Town of Bethlehem in the service, and the Sunday morning before that Ruth precented the first non-psalm in a service in our congregation, another carol, Joy To The World. None of it felt that revolutionary, however, as for a number of years we have been singing carols 'before' and 'after the service proper; a number of congregations have been doing such things to get round the rules, which was less than satisfactory.

The news of the Free Church decision to allow hymns and instrumental accompaniment in its services got quite a bit of news coverage, including front page of the BBC News website and the Five LIve News. Clearly included not because of its significance or controversiality but because of its quaint oddness.

london gallery quire

I joined the London Gallery Quire at the start of this academic year. I'd noted it on a previous occasion when I was looking into London choirs, and took the plunge this time and went along. It's quite small - 20-30 people, including instrumentalists - and unusual in being well-represented by tenors. At the different end of the scale from Bethan's Barts Choir ('London's largest classical choir', says their website). We saw Bethan doing Verdi's Requiem with them at the Albert Hall in November, I think; previously seen her and them doing Carmina Burana there, and other concerts elsewhere. At the start of December I did my first concert with the LGQ (their first event was quite soon after I joined, singing in a church service), a carol service in St George's German Lutheran Church on Alie Street, near Aldgate. It went quite well, I think, and was fairly well-attended. I like the LGQ because the music is quite traditional (as opposed to Classical) and because reading music is not required. The LGQ self-description: 'The Quire performs West Gallery Music, the psalmody heard in parish churches and non-conformist chapels during the Georgian period, from about 1720 to 1850.' Most of their performances seem to be as part of services in churches, which is fine by me. They were part of a concert at Cecil Sharp House a couple of Sundays ago, but I wouldn't be happy doing Sunday concerts.

after the fire

The estate street lighting stayed off until last night. Christmas Day there were vans working on the little plant room in the tenants hall. In the morning of Christmas Day our radiators were cold, but the water never went cold and the heaters started getting a little warm again later in the afternoon. In the afternoon there was a knock on the door and they were giving out a couple of free fan heaters to each house affected. A premptive better-safe-than-sorry gesture; we've had much worse and much longer losses of heat and hot water in the last couple of years, which I'm sure they've had plenty complaints about.

District heating for the whole estate is more economical in theory but not in practice because of human nature. When heat/water is part of a flat-rate service charge, there's no incentive to economise or even be sensible. The day we moved into this house, the hottest day yet of that summer, the radiators were on. Socialist good sense undone by selfish individualism. This I gues is one of the reasons why some Christians choose a right-wing over left-wing political approach, the starting point of legislation being assuming the worst of everyone because of the sinful nature of man rather than 'love your neighbour as yourself'.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

a plockton incubator

A few minutes after his twin sister Ann was born on 12th August 1946, Roderick 'Dick' MacRae arrived in the world, in a house in Rhu, Plockton, the last of six children. Both twins were under 3lbs in weight when they were delivered and were swiftly wrapped up in cotton wool, put in a shoe box and placed in the warm oven compartment of the old stove. 'We were just like little bags of sugar!' says Dick.
- start of a biog article on a Plockton weaver in the Free Press of 3 December

Friday, 24 December 2010

the bible that even atheists worship

The bible that even atheists worship: Four hundred years ago, King James created his own version of the holy book. Andy McSmith discovers that this extraordinary work brings the faithful and non-believers together in appreciation of its dazzling use of language
- Independent, 22 December

Funniest quote:
Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and perhaps the most potent enemy of Protestant dogma, is another prominent member of the KJV fan club. The King James Bible Trust posted a video of him on YouTube, quoting some of the KJV's "proverbial phrases that echo in people's minds", including "beat their swords into plough shares" and "fallen on stoney ground". He adds: "It's important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource."

Most interesting section:
Although the committees checked everything against the Greek and Hebrew texts, they kept as close as they could to the earlier translations. "There was a reason for that, of course, because new was bad in their time," says David Spriggs. "If it was new, it was trivial. For them, things that had some antiquity had value. The language was archaic, even in 1611. They deliberately copied anachronistic word endings and verbs to give it gravitas, because it was to be read in church." One striking example is the constant use of the word "thou". In first recorded conversation in Genesis – and the earliest known earliest known example of someone passing the buck – Adam told God: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat." By 1611, it was a resounding insult to address an adult as "thou". In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch offered Sir Andrew Aguecheek this advice on how to insult someone: "Taunt him with the licence of ink; if thou thou'st him some Thrice, it shall not be amiss." When Sir Edward Coke was prosecuting Sir Walter Raleigh for treason in 1603, he railed at him: "Thou Viper; for I thou thee, thou Traitor." Yet in the Bible, people "thou" one another and even "thou" God, causing no offence at all. Many of those famous phrases that have gone into the language were not, therefore, the work of Jacobean scholars, but of those earlier pioneers who risked everything to make the Bible accessible to the English laiety.

crib service; fire service

At noon I, along with the older generation and the younger generation, was at a crib service in Westminster Abbey. We got there in plenty of time, thinking it might be packed out, but it was by no means, and we got very good seats. It turned out to be the first time they'd done it, which may be why it wasn't so busy, not being part of anyone's Christmas traditions. The full-on carol services at places like that and St Paul's are usually turning people away, but I guess they have choirs and all the trimmings, while this was just the organ and us. It was interesting to notice how few of the people I could see were singing, even with such well-known carols.

This evening I noticed the estate street lights weren't on, and on further investigation it turned out that there were two fire engines here, and firemen with torches and breathing apparatus and hoses. It looked like the plant room - boiler? electric? - in the TRA hall next to us was smoking, and the hall was quite smokey too. I went out and took some blurry photos. The firemen were in and out of the hall, but seemed to be waiting to get into the plant room. Well, they've gone now, so I guess all is well.

Later: as I summed it up on Facebook, 'Our day went from attendance at a crib service in Westminster Abbey to fire service in attendance at our community hall.' Douglas said, 'Nice sentence by the way.', and I said, 'yes, I was disproportionately pleased with it.'

boy sopranos, complaint letter reply

Two things from today's Word newsletter:

The carol service from King's College, Cambridge starts with a boy soprano singing "Once In Royal David's City". To avoid undue nerves all the boys practise the solo. With seconds to go the choirmaster points at one of them and he sings.

The Greatest Letter Ever Printed On NFL Team Letterhead: In 1974, a Clevelander wrote the Browns complaining of the menace posed by the then-fad of throwing paper airplanes, and implicitly threatened litigation. The Browns' response is just about the most awesome thing ever committed to paper.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

charles dickens' landfall in london: wood street

London is of course full of Charles Dickens links, both fictional and biographical, but in a leaflet with a guided walk in the City I discovered one I didn't know of just a couple of streets from church, in Wood Street: 'The story of Dickens and London really begins here. The Cross Keys Inn stood at 25 Wood Street and it was here the 10 year-old Charles Dickens arrived in 1822 from Chatham in Kent, by coach "packed in like game' in the damp straw of the coach's upholstery."

Saturday, 18 December 2010

sally thomsett in the railway children

The 'did you know' fact about The Railway Children in the new Radio Times's film preview section is this:
Sally Thomsett was banned from revealing her real age (20) and from drinking and smoking on set because her character was 11.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

all is well with narnia

I am a Christian minister who dislikes Narnia, but I think media attacks on the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film are over the top
Is the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, tantamount to Christian propaganda? Or is it an affront to the faithful, its makers so irreligious and "stupid" that they have destroyed the Christian thinking behind the books? Both, if recent press reaction is to be believed.
- Guardian, 13 December

marking a sea-change in the role of blogs?

Iain Dale to quit blogging: Prominent political commentator says he is tired of online 'backbiting' and wants to focus on mainstream media career
- Guardian, 14 December

isn't science more rational than faith?

In our series examining frequently asked questions about the Christian faith, Alister McGrath answers: Isn't science more rational than faith?
- Alister McGrath article on Christians in Science site, reproduced from EA Idea magazine.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

einstein’s god

Einstein’s God: What did the great physicist really believe about the deity?
- Big Questions Online, 13 December. Big Questions Online is new to me, but link from somewhere reliable. Interesting article.

Monday, 13 December 2010

'delicious for chanukah'

Surprisingly enough, according to Snopes the photos circulating of a shop advertising ham as 'delicious for chanukah' are genuine.

Monday, 29 November 2010

private eye cartoon

From 12 November issue of Private Eye, a 'New old sayings' cartoon:
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll greedily over-exploit the fish stocks, create unsustainable seafood levels, and starve.

private eye notes

From 29 October issue:

Number crunching:
£7bn Further cuts to UK welfare budget announced last week
£7bn Predicted bonuses to be paid by UK banks this year

£81bn Amount government is cutting from public spending over next four years
£185bn Amount government lent to banks for three years in Special Liquidity Scheme

33 Miners rescued in Chile this month who received worldwide coverage
37 Miners killed in gas explosion in China this month who didn't
34 Average number of accidental deaths in Chilean mining industry each year in last decade
57 Miners killed in accidents in USA so far this year

£422 Average loss to lowest income families, those most affected by spending cuts
£1.6m Inheritance tax George Osborne's family are avoiding through use of a trust fund

Dumb Britain
(I usually amn't keen on these because they usually represent pressure rather than ignorance, especially after one letter writer said that game shows and quizzes encouraged/required contestants to give some kind of answer rather than saying 'I don't know', but this made me laugh, I liked the concept)
Smooth Radio
Host: What way does the profile of the Queen always face on a coin?
Caller: Is it north?

Quote from Christopher Wren in Nooks and Corners:
Architecture has its political Use... publick Buildings being the Ornament of a Country; it establishes a Nation, draws People and Commerce; makes the People love their native Country, which Passion is the Original of all great Actions in a Common-wealth... Architecture aims at Eternity.

A follow-up letter to the previous issue's one on Jane Austen, which I had previously noted:
My younger brother, John Branston (Letters, Eye 1273), is correct in identifying '... a truth universally acknowledged...' as a formulaic assertion favoured by late 18th century expositors (the Universal English Dictionary of 1792 contains any number of constructions precisely like this). However he is erroneous in his belief that Jane Austen's prose was conditioned by Pinnock's Catechisms, since these little books were first published in the 1820s and Pride and Prejudice was begun in 1796. Anyhow, Austen died in 1817 so she couldn't have read them. As a devout Janeite, I suggest John abandon these scholarly pursuits, for which he is evidently unfitted, and resume a task more suited to his limited aptitude, like cataloguing his collection of beer mats.
Yours sororally,
(Mrs) Jane Margaret John
(nee Branston)
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

Two men sitting at cafe table, one with top hat and cane saying, 'Yes, I can talk with the animals, but what people don't realise is that the animals are very boring.'

Saturday, 27 November 2010

kupenga kwa hamlet - oval house theatre

On Wednesday night I went to the Oval House Theatre to see Kupenga Kwa Hamlet - The Madness of Hamlet. A two-man production, with two black actors of Zimbabwean background, it had 'a distinct Zimbabwean context'. It ran 7.45-9.05, and that evening happened to have a post-performance q&a with the actors and directors in the cafe. I hadn't been to the Oval House Theatre before; when I used to see listings for it, a few years ago, the main theme seemed to be issues of sexuality, but the theme now seems to be ethnic minorities; I don't know if this is a change in creative management, or reflects a change of what people get funding for, or could be any number of reasons, or could be a mistaken observation. They've certainly had some redevelopment work done since I last saw it. I walked there and back, and was home before ten.

Much doubling, of course, two actors in orange boilersuits and no other costume elements, just an empty stage, just a couple of props. Some singing (they sang very well), some bits in Shona. Most characters defined by a specific gesture or posture, which worked quite well in keeping track of who was who at any particular time. Some of the characters were played by both of them at different times, but Hamlet was alway Denton Chikura. There was some interaction with the audience, and some audience members taken on stage while the play scene was on. The acting was good, and the production was entertaining, but it wasn't particularly insightful. It wasn't a stunt, exactly, but it didn't really bring anything very new to the play. It was perhaps significant that all the questions and discussion afterwards were about the staging and really nothing about the characterisation or interpretation. They got it so short by first of all starting from the First Folio version, which is much shorter and pacier than the standard text, and then by essentially assuming that everyone in the audience would know the play well enough that they didn't have to make it coherent by itself. I think they leant heavily on the non-Shakespeare bits of linking and Shona and audience interaction, which were heavy on humour and over-appreciated by the audience, who I'd guess were mostly students.

I don't think there's anything particular to say about the characterisation, which was unremarkable. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were witch doctors. The first bit of Shakespeare dialogue in the play was Claudius commissioning the ambassados to Norway, which was odd, obviously only there to lead in to the rest of the scene, and nothing else of the Norway story mentioned. Only thing which struck me as interesting was at one point where they had a little linking bit where they said that Laertes was returning from France and Hamlet returning from England, which gave an idea of them both returning from the west, converging towards their fate. Doing the Player King's long speech in a Shona equivalent made it less dull than usual.

I deliberately didn't read the brief programme beforehand so that I would see how it would strike without explanation (though the fact that it was given out free might suggest it was intended that you read it beforehand to help you understand it, and it does have some material that explains some of what they did, although I had got the gist.

Some links. Oval House Theatre. Afridiziak Theatre News interview with the actors. Two Gents Productions - the theatre company, and their page on the production.

Some reviews (some based on other venues on tour). BritishTheatreGuide (reminds me of the odd bit at the end where after each death a fictional friend of the deceased - like Gertrude's computer studies classmate or Laertes' rugby pal - makes a short speech with some memories of them, which didn't help). The Bardathon blog (very detailed on the staging; the gravediggers at the end digging again for all the subsequent deaths was good; I don't think there was a spoken gravedigger scene). The reviewers are liking it much more than I did I see. This is Wiltshire. Afridiziak Theatre News. Crackerjack. Remotegoat. Margate Sands blog (extraordinarily detailed description of the performance - many reminders there, in particular Hamlet indicating himself as the representation of his dead father to Gertrude, and also the emphasis on the interpretation that Ophelia was pregnant).

[Later. On Facebook I said it was 'Entertaining enough but not illuminating.' Donna D asked how it was possible to do Hamlet with just two people. I said, 'I've seen it done with one. Two: a) assume everyone in the audience has seen it already, and hack mercilessly; b) lots of doubling up; c) dispense with sets, costumes and props.'. Then, 'oh and d) use as your starting point the First Folio version, which is much shorter than Second Folio or Quarto.']

free church to allow music and hymns

Free Church to allow music and hymns: The Free Church of Scotland has voted to relax its rules to allow hymn singing and the use of instruments in its churches.
- BBC, 19 November. This was on the front page of the BBC News site last Friday; I also heard it on 5Live that afternoon. I think it was in the oddity category rather than considered major news.

vox popped in kennington park

2012 lives: A south Londoner’s view
South London has been my home, for most of my life. Like the majority of Londoners I felt proud when I heard the International Olympic Committee declare to the world "The games of the 30th Olympiad 2012 are awarded to the city of London."
- BBC, 22 October

This report is 'User Generated Content' on the BBC News website, by Selina Walker who was at Lambeth Council's Activate sports festival held in Kennington Park a few Saturdays ago, which I and the younger generation were at. I was one of the vox pops she did, and there's a bit of me in the first audio clip.

The only reason I know this is because I was at the Brixton Ritzy this morning and after the film the lady sitting along from me in the row introduced herself to me as she recognised me from having vox popped me at that event, she was Selina Walker, and she told me that I was in her article and told me how to Google it. Funny old world.

rory kinnear hamlet - reviews

Since I blogged about the National Theatre Hamlet with Rory Kinnear I've read the programme and the reviews have come out. The programme - the essays, particularly Peter Holland's, and the interview with Rory Kinnear and the director Nicholas Hytner - gave a good reflection of the production's approach, which is far less usual than you might expect. From Russell Jackson's essay: 'in 1937 the critic James Agate remarked of Laurence Olivier's athletic and un-lyrical Hamlet that it was "the best performance of Hotspur that the present generation has seen,"'.

Reviews from the first page of search results (Times disappeared behind the paywall of course). Guardian overview of reviews. Guardian (can't remember if I mentioned the smiley face, which he graffitied on a wall after seeing his father's ghost for the first time, and then handed out on t-shirts at the play - I had thought something might be made of it). Independent. West End Whingers (some vicious readers' comments). LondonTheatre. Up The West End (a new one on me, with a page on each current production with first paras and links to reviews, also searchable by reviewer/blogger). What's On Stage. Daily Telegraph. Evening Standard. Observer. Daily Mail. Financial Times.

Later: further to Oval House Hamlet reviews search, here's Margate Sands's detailed blog description of this production.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sunday, 14 November 2010

'biology' and 'bio-technology'

A few snapshots. Pietro Corsi pointed out that the word ‘biology’ had been invented 25 times by 25 different people towards the end of the 18th and early 19th century, but then largely dropped because of the politics of the French Revolution. And after 1802 ‘bio-technology’ was used but not used again for 120 years, again because of the fallout of the French Revolution. In fact, the intellectual fallout of the French Revolution could be a programme in itself.
- extract from Melvyn Bragg's email post In Our Time, 16 October 2008

life in a bubble

Life in a Bubble: A southern Bible college in the 1960s.
- Books & Culture article, extract part of Philip Yancey's memories of Southern Bible College.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

a truth universally acknowledged

This extract from Private Eye isn't a cartoon for a change, but from a reader's letter, John Branston of Lindfield, W Sussex:

perhaps your readers should be apprised of a truth universally ignored that '...a truth universally acknowledged...' is a formulary obviously derived from the Catechisms and Expositors for the instruction of juveniles that Miss Austen would have read to her nieces and nephews in the late 18th century and in the early 19th century.
In Pinnock's 'Catechism of Poetry', a volume in the standard series of primers of her time, Miss Austen would have read, for example, that it is a truth 'universally allowed' that Milton excels all others. No Janeite scholar, as far as I know, has yet suggested that the aphoristic cadences of Miss Austen's prose owe much to her nursery study of Pinnock's.

the single most reliable indicator of success in primary school

Another two women (look around you, more women than men travel by bus), perhaps teachers, perhaps social workers, on a training day out, talk despondently about the chaos of some children's lives. "You know what's the single most reliable indicator of success?" (She meant at primary school, I think) "It's whether they have a table at home." "A table?" Came the response. "Yes, it's not just whether they eat together as a family, have regular meals, not just sitting in front of the television, but whether the child has somewhere to write or draw... That's the one thing."
- from a section of an article on conversations overheard on buses by Mary Dejevsky, Independent, 24 August

Sunday, 7 November 2010

the fastest-growing category of calls to 999 in kent

Did you know that in Kent the fastest-growing category of calls to 999 involve complaints about virtual arguments on Facebook? Astonishing, isn't it? It didn't surprise me, therefore, to learn that one force recently took to tweeting an account of every incident that happened in its area over 24 hours. Just to get their point across.
They compare us to children, but with a crucial difference - when adults can't control their feelings, the consequences are much worse. An emergency response officer told us that he had been called out on a 999 call to arbitrate on which brother should get the biggest slice of a Sara Lee cheesecake. When he arrived, he found the food fight had turned into a full-on fight.
- Radio Times, 6 November, from a preview of Coppers by its executive producer Simon Ford


According to Duncan Kerr on Facebook, the Calum Macleod mentioned at the end of this article is Splodge, who was at the Nicolson when I was there. I remember the nickname, but can't picture him, can't even remember if he was on our year or above.

Tortured Scot on the mend after having body parts severed during kidnap ordeal
- Daily Record, 1 November

Saturday, 6 November 2010

devolution and centralisation

One of my arguments against political devolution from London to Edinburgh was that it would not be matched within Scotland itself. On the contrary, many of those who were preoccupied with establishing Edinburgh as a centre of political power would rapidly become centralisers as opposed to devolvers; anxious to enhance their own status by transferring power not just from London but also from within Scotland. That is exactly what is now happening.
- Brian Wilson, WHFP, 5 November

strata: inside the marmite tower

Strata: Inside the Marmite tower
- interesting article on our local tower from 24Housing magazine of 14 October, particularly flat prices and social housing issues.

concerning halloween

Concerning Halloween - an interesting American article from 1996 by James B Jordan on the Biblical Horizons website. Directed to it by Tom Carpenter, unfamiliar with either JBJ or BH.

neuroscience, free will and determinism

Neuroscience, free will and determinism: 'I'm just a machine'. Our bodies can be controlled by outside forces in the universe, discovers Tom Chivers. So where does that leave free will?
- Telegraph, 12 October.

Theology and science both grapple with the question of free will, the only apparent difference being whether the alternative is referred to as determinism or predestination.

'acting is merely...'

'Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing.'
- Ralph Richardson, quote in the Rocking Vicar email

harry truman quote

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit
- Harry S. Truman, quote in a recent Word newsletter

removing single letters from band names

Another good Word thread, Removing single letters from band names.

alternative album covers by master printmakers

A charming thread on the Word magazine blog, alternative album covers by master printmakers. Some lovely images which work very well.

Friday, 5 November 2010

strata tower wins carbuncle cup

London's Strata tower wins Carbuncle Cup as Britain's ugliest new building: The 42-storey building in Elephant & Castle was nominated for its 'plain visual grotesqueness' and 'Philishave stylings'
- Guardian, 12 August

[Later: when I set up my Facebook account the original profile photo I used was of the Strata tower taken from our back door at night, with the turbines lit up, with a caption along the lines of: 'The Three Eyes of Sauron, or, Sauron can see into our house']

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

in our time - the spanish armada

Notes from Melvyn Bragg's email after the Spanish Armada edition of In Our Time (which was pretty good; reminded me that the fleet wasn't on its way to invade but on its way to pick up soldiers and then invade):

Here are some notes in a most animated discussion after the Armada. Please excuse their bullet point brevity. “We did not pay enough attention to the Dutch,” I was told. They were key to this thing but did not make much of an appearance. A bit like the ghost in Hamlet. The Duke of Parma’s idea was to have flat barges to take his 30,000 crack troops over to the Spanish fleet, which had to be anchored ten miles off the coast of what is now Belgium because of the sandbanks offshore. Parma estimated coolly that the Dutch rebels who inhabited some of the offshore places would take out 50% of his troops, but he’d built that into his calculations! Men were men in those days, I suppose.

One of our contributors said that if Philip II had stuck to his original plan and made for Ireland or the West Country and landed there, and then gone back to pick up the troops, he might well have succeeded. There was much talk of the lack of communication between the Spanish fleet and the Spanish soldiers; people taking messages being captured, drowned, swept off course, etc. It was the Dutch who struck the medal which said “God blew with His wind and it was
scattered” of the Spanish fleet, which we have always thought as something we did. It turns out we were not technically advanced enough to do those sort of coins at the time. And it turns out we had already invaded Holland and Belgium in little ways. Elizabeth had sent out forces to help the Dutch rebels and literally occupy territory, which is an invasion. It also turns out she tried to invade France twice in the 1560s and 1570s and had a go at Scotland in 1559.

Something that struck me was that only three ships were sunk at Gravelines and that was because of fire. The opinion of the contributors was that not a single ship was sunk in battle; in fact, it was very hard to sink a ship in battle. I think it was Nicholas Rodger who said that ships did not get sunk in battle until the development of explosive shells.

barts choir do verdi's requiem at albert hall

Went with some others last night to the Albert Hall to hear Bethan (and Yolandie and Monique) in the Barts Choir doing Verdi's Requiem. The younger generation and I left at half time, but it had sounded very good up until then, and I'm sure it continued the same. We saw her and them there before, doing Carmina Burana.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

last minutes of london bus bomber hasib hussain

7/7 inquests shown last minutes of London bus bomber Hasib Hussain
Footage of the last moments of terrorist Hasib Hussain’s life has been shown to an inquest into the victims of the July 7 London bombings.
- Daily Telegraph, 14 October

At 9am, he made a decision. Shrugging his large rucksack off his shoulders, he dropped it to the ground in the doorway of WH Smith’s within the station. For two and a half minutes Hussain was seen bent at the hip, rifling around in the dark blue Sherpa rucksack, only yards from a security guard. Hugo Keith QC, counsel for the inquest, said: “He spent a very significant amount of time rooting around in a rucksack containing a highly unstable cooled explosive.” After adjusting the straps as he placed it back on his shoulders, Hussain walked into WH Smith’s and purchased a single Duracel plus 9 volt battery, at a cost of £4.49. In the shop’s footage he was seen handing over a £5 note to the cashier, who was oblivious to its later, deadly use. At 9.07am, Hussain dived into a nearby McDonald’s, emerging eight minutes later. “May we presume during that time that he put the battery he purchased into the bomb?” asked Mr Keith. “Absolutely,” replied Det Insp Ewan Kindness, who was responsible for accumulating the CCTV footage. The last pictures of Hussain were at 9.22am as he walked past Burger King and Barclays Bank, still on only a few metres from Kings Cross.

Friday, 8 October 2010

are american college professors religious?

Many sociologists of religion, as well as the general public, seem to take for granted the causal relationship between higher education and the decline of religion. The more educated someone becomes, the theory goes, the less religious they are likely to be. As European and American universities broke free from the control of the church in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science and the scientific worldview arose to become the prime competitor to religious authority. With this historical trend, it was assumed that those who occupy these elite places of learning would also shed the trappings of irrational religious belief. However, more and more sociological evidence reveals that this may not be the case. In a recent article published in Sociology of Religion, sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons use data from a new, nationally representative survey of American college and university professors to test the long-running assumption that higher education leads to irreligiousness. Based on their research, they argue that "while atheism and agnosticism are much more common among professors than within the U.S. population as a whole, religious skepticism represents a minority position, even among professors teaching at elite research universities." This has been a long-running debate amongst those who study religiosity in higher education and pay attention to trends in societal secularization.
- Huffington Post, 6 October

Thursday, 7 October 2010

ruby wax and princess diana

Heard Frank Skinner's podcast sidekick Emily say that Ruby Wax had coached Princess Diana before the Panorama interview, and that the 'there were three people in this marriage' line was hers. This article from the Daily Mail of 21 December 1998 stored on the Free Library (whatever that is) seems to confirm this.

facebook unveils 'groups' feature and user controls

Facebook has introduced a raft of features aimed at giving users more control over their personal data. A groups feature will allow people to specify circles of friends with whom they want to share different updates and information. For the first time, users will also be able to download all the data they have uploaded onto the site. They will also find it easier to see how individual applications are using personal information, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said.
- BBC, 6 October

is your private phone number on facebook?

Is your private phone number on Facebook? Probably. And so are your friends'
Uploads from iPhones using the Facebook app will push all your contacts onto Facebook's servers - where they'll be matched against any and everyone. Worried at all? Update: Or how about a random Facebooker's number? If you have a friend on Facebook who has used the iPhone app version to access the site, then it's very possible that your private phone numbers - and those of lots of your and their friends - are on the site.
- Guardian Technology blog, 6 October

shape, rattle and roll

Shape, rattle and roll: The amazing survival of shape-note singing. Shape-note singing was America's first music craze, and 150 years on, it's still going. Alfred Hickling tries it
- Guardian, 30 September

Monday, 4 October 2010

obama: 'I'm a christian by choice'

Eighteen per cent of Americans may be convinced their President is a Muslim, but Barack Obama insists he is a Christian.
President Barack Obama was forced to open up about his Christian faith on Tuesday when an woman asked him why he was a Christian. "I'm a Christian by choice," he responded. It was a "hot topic question", the woman said during an informal conversation on the economy. Obama was meeting with families in the front garden of the home of Andy and Etta Cavalier in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the question was posed. Providing a brief account of how he grew up, Obama said his family members "weren't folks who went to church every week". "My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church," he said. Obama became a Christian later in life. What drew him to Christianity were "the precepts of Jesus Christ" which spoke to him in terms of the kind of life he wanted to lead, he explained. These precepts included "being my brothers' and sisters' keeper; treating others as they would treat me". He continued, "I think also understanding that ... Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings – that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes; we achieve salvation through the grace of God." In terms of how he's living out his Christian faith, he said he strives and prays to "see God in other people" and "help them find their own grace". "I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith," he said. Only about a third of Americans believe the president is a Christian, a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed last month. Last year, nearly half held that perception. Meanwhile, some 18 per cent say Obama is a Muslim and the rest do not know his religion.
- Christian Today, 30 September

Sunday, 3 October 2010

ibex on the face of a dam

Photos of Alpine ibex on the face of an Italian dam - on the Snopes site because they're being circulated with misattribution, but they're still genuine photos.

george best's bar stool thrombosis

According to an article in September's When Saturday Comes, George Best 'regularly used Spanish resorts as his boltholes. He fled to Marbella to announce the first of his retirements (in 1974) and it was in Majorca that he developed thrombosis in the leg from sitting awkwardly on a bar stool for too long.'

Saturday, 2 October 2010

'merry little christmas' second line

In this week's Radio Times, the interesting fact about Meet Me In St Louis in the film review section: 'The original second line to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was changed from "It may be your last" because Garland said it was too grim.' Hard to believe that was the original second line.

hamlet - rory kinnear, national theatre

I saw the National Theatre production of Hamlet with Rory Kinnear on Friday 1 October, second preview. On the whole it was pretty good. Some notes. Claudius (Patrick Malahide) seemed rather undercharged, but that was perhap deliberate to show that he was an ineffectual leader. In the bedroom scene Gertrude sees the ghost, but pretends she doesn't, or thinks it's alcohol-induced; another Gertrude who seems to be killing guilt and/or pain with drink. It is clearly implied that Ophelia doesn't drown herself but is drowned or murdered in some other way by security staff, which is a bit daft (though tying in very much with the security state emphasis, lots of security staff with earpieces and guns), and Gertrude knows this while she's describing how she died, as if making up this preposterous description on the spot, but angry about it. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get aggressive with Hamlet especially after he kills Polonius, as they often do, which as usual doesn't tie in very well with their self-effacing subservience earlier. The security staff stand back and let Hamlet kill Claudius when they realise what's gone on, which was a nice touch. The courtiers, officials and security staff align themselves with Fortinbras as soon as he takes control at end. Security staff take away the actors after their inflammatory performance (some extra deaths to lay at Hamlet's door in this production), and also Laertes co-conspirators. Polonius as usual the windbag, but with implications that he's losing his mental powers, getting forgetful and mixed up, not the advisor he was. The Ghost and Player King (same actor) quite good, soft spoken in both roles which works quite well (and which in both cases is a refreshing change from the usual tendency to declaiming). Horatio was insipid, and Laertes not very strong either. Gertrude (Clare Higgins) was both strong and rough. The gravedigger (Polonius doubling, which I'd seen recently too) has no assistant, and also recognises Hamlet, though not sure to what purpose really. Rory Kinnear quite good as Hamlet, thoughtful and humorous. Plays up the pretending to be mad scenes. 'Very like a whale' sequence interesting, Polonius just flatly agreeing with him, uninterested in humouring him or disbelieving of his madness. Some interesting touches, most of which now escape me. In his first soliloquy Hamlet utters one of the 'God's as a questions rather than a swear. When they're on the battlements with Hamlet waiting to see if the Ghost will reappear they all jump out of their skins when the cannons go off to mark the king's carousing.

Not much online yet, press night next Thursday. Here are a couple. A blog review from Friday night by Dan Hutton. A blog review from Thursday night by Boycotting Trends.

The BBC has a large standalone Hamlet section now, after their David Tennant production, which I discovered when browsing led me to this page on the 1989 Mark Rylance RSC production, still my favourite and unlikely to be surpassed, which reminds me that Clare Higgins was Gertrude in that too.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

rory kinnear as laertes

Yesterday I read a Daily Telegraph email which reminded me that Rory Kinnear as Hamlet at the National Theatre was coming up sooner than I thought, ie first preview tonight. Looked online and saw they had tickets for the previews, so got one for tomorrow night, fourth row centre, somehow. Maybe it'll overrun by two hours, I wouldn't mind that.

Anyway, I found this interview-based Guardian article of 19 September on Rory Kinnear. Favourite bit:

'He hasn't seen Hamlet on stage since appearing in Trevor Nunn's Old Vic production in 2004, playing Laertes to Ben Whishaw's Hamlet. Hytner had already picked him for the part by the time Law and Tennant took the stage, so he avoided both productions. "I thought, if they've had a good idea, then I will probably try and not do it. If I end up recreating the exact idea, at least I will have done it with impunity."
'As for the Whishaw production, he hardly remembers it: Laertes has a two-and-a-half hour break in the show, so "I wasn't around much". Wasn't he backstage? He looks sheepish: at the time, Kinnear lived 10 minutes' walk from the Old Vic, so would pop home to eat dinner and watch the European Championships on TV, "then return for a quick fence and a howl".'

london park hotel

We were in St Mary's Churchyard playpark on Saturday when a suitcase-dragging North American asked me where the London Park Hotel was. I had to tell him that he was in the right place, but that it had been knocked down (about three years ago, in fact), leaving just the waste ground behind the hoardings. He said there were still signs up for it. We directed him to the other side of the IWM where there are a couple of chain hotels.

Unlike the Strata tower, the redevelopment there wasn't far enough ahead of the credit crunch when it came. It was going to be the same size of tower, plus a low rise development the rest of the block, including various amenities including a new theatre for the Southwark Playhouse, which is still doing fine in its post-industrial venue off Tooley Street.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

sid james infirmary

Mark Ellen: Word reader Alan Davies has just emailed me about his latest composition, Sid James Infirmary - which suggests an amusing Massive-related thread in the making. Any more Pro-Celebrity Song Titles? The Paul Greengrass Of Home?
- a thread from the Word forum. A lot to wade through, but some gems.

martin sheen on religion

Interviewer: I really appreciate that you're trying to deal with religion and spirituality in this movie in an open-minded, non-cynical fashion, without totally embracing it or totally rejecting it. That's a difficult thing to do. Our country is so messed up around religion.

M.S.: No kidding! [Laughter.]

Interviewer: I know -- what a brilliant observation, right? But you guys call our attention here to a tradition of Western spirituality that runs deep in our European roots and has very little to do with organized religion. The Camino de Santiago is a perfect example. I feel like so many educated Westerners go toward the Eastern spiritual traditions partly because they don't see that or understand it.

E.E.: Sure, they want a response to the dogma of Christianity. They go to Hinduism, they go to Buddhism, just because it's something different than their parents. They want to get away from that. I think it's a knee-jerk reaction.

M.S.: Religions separate us, by their very nature. Spirituality unites us. That's the key, and if spirituality is not about humanity, it's not spiritual. I am a practicing Catholic. I love the faith. I'm not nuts about the institution, but the faith is mine, everywhere I go in the world. The belief that God became human -- that's genius, man. And that God would choose to dwell where we would least likely look, inside ourselves and each other. The genius of God in our humanity, I love that.

Every culture has that -- the Hindus, Muslims, all of them have it. That's the fundamental belief in all true believers, that God is present, God suffers and is broken with us. That's why the Catholics never removed the corpse from the cross. Our hero is a convicted criminal. He was tried and convicted in a kangaroo court and then he was murdered. That's God. We're embraced by that. The most fundamental, most basic, most sincere beliefs -- that's not religion. It's spirituality. It's transcendence. People are looking for transcendence now more than ever, I think. Sometimes our transcendence becomes drugs, alcohol, money, power, sex, and they're so shallow. It's we ourselves, we must surrender ourselves to our brokenness. That's the beginning of community, and that's what this film is all about.

- Salon interview, 18 September, with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez on their new film. Somehow Catholics in the USA don't seem to have the same view of the incompatibility of religion and left-wing politics which evangelicals unfortunately have.

Friday, 24 September 2010

south london's heygate estate mourned by locals – and hollywood

Crumbling flats provided gritty, urban backdrop for Clint Eastwood film and TV shows including The Bill and Spooks
- Guardian, 3 September

Thursday, 23 September 2010

nine nine nine

I phoned for an ambulance yesterday for the first time ever. A collision between a bike and motorbike across St George's Road from me, at Princess St junction; I didn't see it, but heard it and saw things go flying; they were both on the ground and I started dialling straight away. It would be interesting to hear a recording of my call, because by the end I was being apologetic and saying that perhaps I shouldn't have rung, since they were both up and seemed okay, but the operator said not to worry and better safe than sorry. An ambulance and ambulance motorbike were there in three or four minutes. The motorbike didn't stay long but I was in a way, well, not pleased exactly but happy that I wasn't wasn't wasting ambulance time, that the cyclist was taken into the ambulance adn was still there by the time I left. A policeman came along in a car before too long also, as I thought might happen, and got statements from the two ladies who had been passing and who had seen it and had been attending to the lady cyclist. The motorcyclist was still there too. I don't know who was at fault.

Monday, 20 September 2010

why norman davies wrote 'the isles'

From the pile, a radio listing for 27 September 2000 torn out of Time Out containing a very striking fact:
Sunday Feature - The John Tusa Interview 5.45-6.30 R3
Norman Davies, Emeritus Professor of History at London University and author of two 1,000-page bestsellers: first 'Europe - A History' and more recently, 'The Isles', is in to defend his controversial approach to history. Sitting on a university examination committee, he discovered that out of 400 questions on British history, 399 were actually about English history. In 'The Isles', he set out to redress the balance.

the pile

I've also been going through my pile of various forms of printed paper, and have made a start at throwing some of it away, mainly old newspapers. The things that need filing or reading, or typing up, will take longer to work through. The oldest substantial layer was from 2005, well back into the period where finding an online link to the interesting thing in the paper wasn't an option, so lots of things of that nature (to add to the dedicated pile of cuttings which formerly sat on the shelf beside me until it got too precipitous and precarious and was put into a bag for life of its own, which I have just now moved to my bedside 'for the moment'. Also the period where there are lists of things I've worked out and drawn up for myself which I would now just Google and find online, like discographies. It made me think of Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, which featured a mathematical hermit of a previous century, spending a lifetime working out calculations which could be done in the twinkling of an eye on a computer today.

carpet cleaning

We had our carpets and sofas cleaned last Tuesday, fairly successfully, which in turn led to the filling of several recycling and rubbish bags, as we tried to sort through some of our piles and boxes rather than just putting them all back where they were before. The under-bed boxes in particular got a good going over; I rationalised my 'archives' of publications I have written/edited over the last nineteen years to one copy of each thing; next time I suspect I might rationalise them to no copies at all. It's an odd thing seeing your work time encased in four small boxes, which realistically you'll never refer to. Similarly we have a tower of boxes containing all our photos, between the wardrobe and the outside wall, which we've never looked at since I sorted them away there. People sometimes say of digital photos that you will never look at them because you don't print them out, but we certainly look at the photos on our laptop much more than we ever looked at our prints.

Many of the recycling bags are filled with baby clothes, bedding and paraphernalia. It's highly unlikely we will regret this unprecipitate action...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

mark david chapman, fame monster

Mark David Chapman, fame monster: Newly released transcripts of John Lennon's killer reveal his surprising insights into modern celebrity culture
Before the Internet, it was a lot harder for crazy people to get attention. On a December night in 1980, Mark David Chapman stood outside an Upper West Side apartment building and put four bullets into a Beatle. His admitted motive – one that has not wavered in all the ensuing years – seemed a peculiarly cruel anomaly then. He was chasing fame. Thirty years later, who isn't?
Speaking to Larry King a decade ago, Chapman talked about the "rock bottom" self-esteem of celebrity stalkers, noting, "They feel that by writing fan letters or actually coming in close contact with a celebrity, they feel important. If you have nothing to start with, and your life consists of fantasizing about celebrities or being with them, that can become very dangerous. And that is a phenomenon in this country now that has to be addressed." This may sound strange, but that psycho killer has a good point.
The fact that movie stars are not routinely gunned down makes it clear that Chapman's particular brand of mental illness hasn't become epidemic. But his weird notion that getting on TV or a mention on the news is the eminently desirable has taken off like gangbusters. The difference between today and 1980 is that you don't have to kill to get a celebrity to notice you. You can just buy that. But as John Lennon's killer explains, "Somebodies are people that have worked for their fame [and] achieved something special." Chapman knows, despite his ability to get in the papers, "I am not anybody special."
- Salon, 17 September. My memory of the time is that the talk then was of split personality and that he'd believed he had become John Lennon. Reading this made me think of the Peter Gabriel song, Family Snapshot (which Wikipedia entry brings as news to me, though it shouldn't, that XTC's Dave Gregory played guitar on that, and presumably throughout the album).

Saturday, 18 September 2010

'the sort of person whose circle of friends...'

[In interviewing people] Tatchell keeps drawing the viewer's attention back to him, with interjections that repeat to us what we have just heard for ourselves. Tatchell, of course, is a long-time campaigner for gay and lesbian rights, and that's fine, but you get the very strong impression he is the sort of person whose circle of friends must include, above all, good listeners.
- The Square Fellow, the Free Press's TV columnist, this week, in his report of a Peter-Tatchell-presented doc on the Pope. It's the description of his circle of friends which I like. I saw Peter Tatchell in our Tesco a few months ago, in fact, late on a Saturday evening.

I also see from this week's Free Press that I could go to the Guardian offices and see the Murdo Macleod photo exhibition we saw at An Lanntair last month. And that if I was in Portree this coming Tuesday I could hear Jeremy Brooks give the talk on the Scottish Reformation that he gave in London on Thursday night (but I didn't go to that).

murdanie mast's brushes with death

In 1946, Murdanie joined the Merchant Navy and sailed the world several times over. His travels provided the raw material for a lifetime of great stories and even better songs. They also brought at least two very close calls with death.
In 1955, Murdanie went to the whaling in South Georgia. The New Year found him down at the Ice Barrier where no alcohol was allowed so he and three mates from Lewis celebrated by dividing an apple among them. Not long afterwards, Murdanie slipped a disc and was sent home on the first available ship. The three Lewismen with whom he had shared the apple never made it home. Kenneth Finlayson from Shawbost, Alasdair MacDonald from Achmore and Angus MacLeod from Ranish all died from poisonous gasses that had built up in the hold of their ship, which had been carrying bonemeal in the tropical heat.
A few years later and just after he married Louisa - who was, quite literally, the 'girl next door' in Marbhaig - Murdanie signed on to a coaster, the 'St Ronan', so that he could be home at weekends. Their first cargo was bound for Rotterdam but they hit terrible fog in the English Channel and another ship - 'like Mount Everest coming out of the fog' - cut straight through the 'St Ronan'. Three men drowned but seven were saved, largely due to the fact that the night before Murdanie had studied the instructions on the safety raft and managed to inflate it.
- from his obituary in this week's Free Press

The miracle of Google leads me to this Ships Nostalgia thread, which reveals the collision was with the Mount Athos in 1959.

michael sheen's musical tastes

In just a few hours, Michael Sheen will be flying from Heathrow to Denver, Colarado, and he's clearly excited. His ultimate destination is Red Rock, an outdoor ampitheatre where he'll watch some of his boyhood musical heroes perform. 'I got a record player recently and so started rebuying albums I loved as a teenager. Then I started looking up the bands online, found that two of my very favourites were on tour this summer and vowed to get myself tickets. Jethro Tull I saw recently in Toronto and they were brilliant. Now I'm going to be seeing Rush. I can hardly wait.'
- from an interview article in this week's Radio Times. Distance no object, clearly

Saturday, 11 September 2010

michael collins

The Dervla Kirwan episode of Who Do You Think You Are? makes one thing clear: Michael Collins looked a lot like Kenneth Branagh and not much like Liam Neeson. (Dervla is Michael's great-great-niece.)

before coronation street

Casting was another challenge. Northerners were still so marginalised by the television industry that finding actors who were equal to Warren's demanding writing was tough. They went to a couple of veterans, Doris Speed [who would become Ena Sharples] and Violet Carson (Annie Walker], with whom Warren had workd on radio and television. Both had effectively given up on acting. Speed, already 60, was working as a secretary in a Guinness factory.
- article in this week's Radio Times on a drama re the beginnings of Coronation Street

lost property at football grounds

"One of our supporters has reported the loss of a personal item following Saturday's home match with Morecambe. The item - a light blue sweater - was lost around Row K, Seat 75 in the South Stand Lower after the end of the game. Any supporters with information regarding the missing item are asked to contact the club on 01865 337500" - An urgent lost-and-found message on the Oxford United website. You wouldn't get that at the Old Trafford or the Emirates, would you?
- Quote of the Day, Guardian Fiver, Tue 7 September

"Re: the lost sweater at Oxford Utd (yesterday's quote of the day). I brought my son to Eastlands about two months after the Sheikhs' takeover and left a bag with a new kids' home shirt in it under the seat at the end of the game. Not 20 seconds later I realised this and went back to find said bag gone. With upset kid in tow, I asked the security people if there was a lost and found stall or, even better, perhaps they could check on CCTV who picked the bag up. I was then met with the perfect response from Moneybags FC: 'Sorry, nothing we can do, you could always go back across to the megastore and buy the lad another shirt.' Welcome to the Premier League son" Les Hickey.
- letter, Guardian Fiver, Wed 8 September

"Re: lost property at football (Fiver passim). I sat in the away end to watch Leicester v QPR on a freezing night in January 2006. On my return home I discovered that, in the excitement of a dramatic away win, I was without my wedding ring (after fewer than six months of marriage). A few frantic phone calls to bus operators revealed nothing so I put in a less-than-hopeful call to Loftus Road. After explaining my predicament, a chap from security advised the School End was currently being cleaned and, if I could remember my seat number, he would have a look and call me back. After 15 tense minutes the phone did ring and my wedding ring had been retrieved, after spending a cold night in the stand. We were reunited that evening and, am still wearing it as I type, thanks to the Super Hoops" - Kevin Wesson.
- letter, Guardian Fiver, Thu 9 September

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

crampton school developments

Good news in the pipeline for Crampton Primary School
Crampton Primary School in Iliffe Street, SE17 (behind Kennington tube) have submitted a planning application for an extension to build:

* A new entrance and reception for the school
* A new classroom
* Additional accommodation for multi-use teaching room and space for breakfast club
* Additional accommodation for an enlarged library
* A pedestrian entrance on Iliffe Street and new staffroom

- continues on the Lurking about SE11 blog.

Here's the planning application on the Southwark council website.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

undercover among the evangelicals

Undercover Among the Evangelicals: They're nice, but they don't know how to think.
- book review, Books & Culture, July/August 2010

In the Land of Believers concludes with this earnest plea:
"If we don't love Evangelicals, if we don't make an effort to understand and accept them, to eat the fish even as it wriggles in our hands, we'll always be each other's nemeses. We'll always be trying to drown each other out. Threaten them, ridicule them, celebrate their humiliation, and you create a toxic dump, fertile ground for a ferocious adversary to rise, again and again. But listen to them, include them in the public conversation, understand the sentiments behind their convictions, and you invent the possibility of kinship."
Apart from the creepy and inexplicable metaphor, this sounds good—until you realize that "understand the sentiments behind their convictions" is exactly what Welch means. She may claim to be portraying the evangelical mind, but her entire narrative is marked by a determined refusal to comprehend that there *is* one.
"[H]ow was I to find a place among people indifferent to facts?", Welch writes in her introduction. It is an opinion that never shifts a millimeter. Listening to Jerry Falwell preach about the offense of the cross, she muses: "By embracing the inscrutable cross, Christians were comfortable not fully comprehending the concepts around which they built their lives." Christian beliefs bypass the brain altogether; the whole notion of the Trinity, she remarks, "reminded me of nothing more than Dracula's ability to transmute into a bat or mist." She is tone-deaf to conviction, unable to comprehend that doctrine has anything to do with the behavior of the people she claims to love.
Which is simpler for her, because she can blame everything she dislikes about evangelicals on cultural influence, and cultivate her affection for them without having to think about what they actually *believe*.

Monday, 6 September 2010

digby chick review

Restaurant review: Digby Chick. The last thing you'd expect in this distant corner of Scotland is a smart, buzzy outpost of Islington…
- Observer, 5 September

A good review. We didn't eat there this year, unusually.

guga complainers

Almost every year there's press coverage of complaints about the guga hunt. Here's this year's, in the Guardian, of 25 August:

Cliffhanger for a bloody tradition as last of Scotland's gannet hunters set sail
• Animal charity seeks end to 'cruel cull' of guga chicks
• Hebrides' seabird delicacy splits conservationists

gallows hill

A YouTube video, 360 degrees video from Gallows Hill.

west gallery music

I'm thinking of going along to the London Gallery Quire on Wednesday to try it out - Bethan's at the Barts Choir tonight starting Verdi's Requiem.

Some information on West Gallery music. Wikipedia. West Gallery Music Association. West Gallery Music.

how panhandlers use free credit cards

What would happen if, instead of spare change, you handed a person in need the means to shop for whatever they needed? What would they buy? Can you spare your credit card, sir?
- Toronto Star, 28 August

End of article:
How the cards were used
Card 1: $50, handed to Jason. Spends $8.69 at McDonald’s. Returns card.
Card 2: $50, to Mark. Spends $21.64 at The Corner Place restaurant. Doesn’t return. Later spends $15.50 at the LCBO.
Card 3: $75, to Joanne. Card is stolen. Over two days, $24.95 spent at McDonald’s, $38.35 at the LCBO.
Card 4: $50, to Al. Card unreturned. Balance remains at $50
Card 5: $75. Laurie buys $74.61 worth of food, phone minutes and cigarettes at a gas station convenience store. Returns card.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

technological developments

Maintaining my reputation as a late adopter, a couple of things happened during our Lewis holiday:
- we used our laptop on my mother's wifi successfully, and yesterday took delivery of a BT wireless Home Hub, which we are now using
- we signed up for BT Fon/Openzone, which is free if you are BT Broadband at home, and tried that out successfully in Lewis too
- my iPod died, and looking into replacing it it looked like the best option was an iPod Touch, which I reckoned, and which it turns out everyone reckons, is essentially an iPhone without a phone in it. So I bought one of those on Wednesday, the day before - I discovered today - the big (annual?) Apple announcement of their new and upgraded products, doubtless pushing my model down to the bottom rung of the ladder, if that. Still, I'm liking it so far. And I successfully went online using that on our Home Hub yesterday. In fact, looking at the apple and John Lewis websites today, they newly-upgraded versions of the Touch are on sale now, £50 more expensive than the one I bought for extra features that I won't miss.
- Bethan would have bought a Samsung netbook on Wednesday too, if they'd had it in stock (John Lewis). And we will do a bit more research before we buy a new digital/fm/ipod-dock radio for the kitchen.

I told Douglas about this great leap forward and he reported this conversation with James:
Welcome to the world of wireless. I mentioned your advancement to James which provoked
"what! He has never been on the internet?"
"No he has used the internet and email for a very long time."
"But how could he connect to the internet without wi-fi?"
"He would use a cable."
"And plug it in?" Simulates the motion with a puzzled look.

It's one thing when technology from your own childhood seems positively primitive to your children, but another when it's technology from what seems like just yesterday.

The Touch is of course a double-edged sword, opening yet another way for the overwhelming torrent of information and entertainment. I'm not sure yet how I will use the Touch beyond music, but that will unfold gradually I expect. I have already watched something on it on the BBC iPlayer (and listened to the iPlayer on the laptop in the kitchen). I sent a short email to Bethan on it, but don't imagine I'll be doing a lot of typing on it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

private eye number crunching

11: People killed in accident on oil rig leased by British company BP, resulting in four presidential visits, a $1.6bn clean-up and the establishment of $20bn compensation fund in two months
15,000+: People killed in accident at Bhopal plant owned by American company Union Carbide, resulting in 0 presidential visits, no clean-up and $470m compensation in 25 years

$20bn: Compensation fund demanded from BP by American government for victims of oil spill
$7bn: Compensation paid out by American government to families of victims of 9/11

$2.6bn: Dividend from BP, now cancelled as a result of political pressure following accident on rig leased by company
$1bn: Dividend to be paid out to shareholders by Transocean, owners and operators of the rig, approved a month after the accident

$20bn: Compensation fund set up by BP for US victims of oil spill in Gulf of Mexico last week
$45m: Compensation paid out by oil firm Trafigura to 30,000 victims of dumped toxic waste in Ivory Coast after four year legal battle

- Number crunching in Private Eye, 25 June

the protestant succession

Might just have picked up on this because I saw Henry VIII yesterday. Donnie Foot often has things worth noting in his column but usually too long to note. One of the things I like about the Free Press is that they will have columns by Donnie Foot and Brian Wilson taking completely different positions on the same issue, but never just for 'provocative columnist' effect, rather their own well-expressed and sincerely held positions. This week, 16 July, their shared theme was the Protestant Succession. Extract from Footnotes:

There is nothing complicated about the law itself. It simply states that no Roman Catholic, and no one married to a Roman Catholic, can be Queen or King of the United Kingdom. This law was passed at the end of the 17th century after the nation's bitter experience of government by the closet Catholic, Charles II, and the very overt Catholic, James II (James VII of Sotland). The detestation of both men ran deep and strong.
They had ignited a holocaust of terror against Dissenters in England and Pesbyterians in Scotland. Charles had added to this the crime of perjury, signing the National Covenant to secure coronation as King of Scotland in 1651 and then, when he became King of England in 1660, turning ferociously against all it stood for. James for his part had shown a marked inclination to invoke the help of the Catholic powers, especially France, to advance his own interests: a tendency continued by his descendants, the Old Pretender and the Young Pretender.
... The ban against Roman Catholics occupying the Throne was not the work of bigoted Presbyterians. Like the whole so-called Glorious Revolution which brought William of Orange to Britain in 1688, it was the work of those London circles illuminated by the philosopher, John Locke. Locke was firmly convinced that the first loyalty of a Roman Catholic would always be to a foreign power, namely, the Vatican: a power not only spiritual but temporal, heavily and skilfully involved in international diplomacy, and as determined to secure its own political ends as any state on earth.

I've been good to you, sexy sadie, this boy

An article in Word referred to Sexy Sadie being based on Smokey Robinson's I've Been Good To You. Here is the latter on Youtube. Not that strong a link, except thematically a little, and the first couplet, 'Look what you've done, you've made a fool out of someone'. As the comments note, there's also a chord progression similarity to This Boy, but it's hardly an unusual chord sequence.


Heard an interesting R4 documentary a while ago, via a podcast, about the art of making film trailers. I hadn't realised - though it may be different now - that the trailers weren't made by the filmmakers but by a little trailer-making company in London. Also, the famous title sequence image of James Bond being seen as if down the barrel of a gun wasn't originally in the film but was created by the man who made the trailer, who had the foresight to copyright it.

Friday, 6 August 2010

henry viii

I saw my second-last canonical Shakespeare this afternoon, a 2pm matinee of Henry VIII at Shakespeare's Globe.I was standing, as often, and there was less space than usual and especially less leaning space, because they extended the stage and had lots of steps - a little annoying, actually, downgrading the yard to just an extension of the wings, creating extra access points.

I enjoyed it very well; I don't know why it's so little performed, it was certainly more enjoyable than some others I've seen. I guess there is less action, more scenes with characters telling others about some event that happened off stage, and more set pieces of court and pageant. There's a good part for Queen Catherine of Aragon, and she (Kate Duchene) was the stand-out actor I thought. I don't think I recognised her; I recognised quite a few of the others, although not form anything in particular expect for one chap (Colin Hurley) I knew from the Factory productions of Hamlet. The most well-known actor in it was Miranda Raison, playing Anne Boleyn, who's been in a couple of recent tv series which I haven't seen; she certainly appeared more striking than the other ladies in waiting, but perhaps only because she was better dressed and made up than them which was a bit of a cheat. Henry looked like a cross between Orson Welles, Jonathan Frakes and Charlie Higson.

Reviews (more blogs coming up now in a search for reviews and I'm including some from the top of the search; also of course now there's the Times paywall). Telegraph. Independent. Guardian. What's On Stage. IndieLondon. Evening Standard. Ah, The Times ('archive'). The Stage. Music OMH. London Theatre Blog. There Ought To Be Clowns blog. Mark Ronan's Theatre Reviews. Londonist. The Bardathon blog.

A number of them, of course, mention that it was during a performance of this play that the original Globe burned down, and also that it was probably written in collaboration with John Fletcher. One review reminded me that for the first while I half expected the Queen to be squeezed out of her top, so tight and overflowingly upwards was her bosom squeezed; maybe this was alarmingly authentic. Some reviews didn't like her performance at all, some barely mentioned it, some liked it as I did.

So, bring on King John. Somebody.

david bowie and sgt pepper

David Bowie's eponymous debut album was released on the same day as Sgt Pepper, 1 June 1967.

not the nine o clock news

Watched an interesting documentary about Not The Nine O'Clock News recently. Of course from the days when a series had a much greater impact becasue there were only three channels. Most interesting thing learned was how Rowan Atkinson had been signed up with a ruthless agent before he'd even graduated, and how they'd hoped it was going to be a series of his own rather than a team, and how they told the others there wasn't going to be another series at the end of the last one because Rowan was a first division talent and the others were second division talents, so he'd be going his own way. Ruthless ambition.

The Oxbridge comedy mafia still persists, which is a bit annoying. Even supposing it is the cleverest students who go to these places, there's no reason to believe they should be so disproportionately funnier than the rest of the population, student or otherwise.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

pd james interview

PD James interview: 'I have lived a very happy and fulfilled life': She’s a life peer, a best-selling crime novelist, and last year, the BBC’s scariest interrogator. As she approaches 90, PD James reflects on death, family − and the husband she couldn’t save.
- Daily Telegraph, 21 July.

Added to all this, her best known hero, the detective Adam Dalgliesh, is a man. When I ask her what it has been like being, as it were, inside his head for the past 47 years she chuckles and says: ‘Well, he is a male version of me. Brainier than me but his emotions are mine. The empathy is mental rather than physical. I never describe Dalgliesh getting up and getting dressed.’ So is she, like her hero, unsentimental? ‘Yes, I’m very unsentimental. Very.’
Her most recent Dalgliesh novel was published in 2008, might there be another one? ‘I’m not sure yet. Life has been so busy I have only done 10,000 words in six months. I don’t want the standard to drop and I don’t want a reviewer to be saying: “It’s a remarkable book, for a 91 year-old.” And I don’t want them to say: “It’s not vintage PD James.” If I’m not doing it as well as I have done it in the past, then there is no point in my doing it at all.’
She knows whereof she speaks. Before the Home Office, which she joined in 1968, she worked as an administrator in the NHS, having had some experience of health care working for the Red Cross in the Second World War. That was what she was doing when she had her first novel published at the age of 42. ‘I remember thinking: the years are slipping by and if I don't make a start soon I’m going to be a failed writer. There was never going to be a convenient time to get on with it.’ So she had to be selfish and find the time? ‘I did a lot of plotting on long journeys to work but I was also doing evening classes and visiting my husband in hospital, so I didn’t have much spare time. I certainly didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book, apart from my husband, and he was encouraging.’
During the Second World War, her husband was a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but he suffered a mental breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. He wasn’t given a disability pension because it was claimed his mental illness had not been caused by war service. ‘So I had him and two daughters to support, and did evening classes in hospital administration to get my qualifications. Then I was put in charge of psychiatric units and I got two books out of that.’
It was at this time that she saw an advertisement for the civil service and decided to take the examination. Though she hadn’t had the chance to go to university, for financial reasons, she came third in the country. ‘I’ve still got the pre-printed letter which says: “Dear sir” and “sir” is crossed out and “Madam” has been written in by hand. It was so rare for women to take the exam.’
How does she get into the mind of a killer? ‘I think when you create a character you become that character for as long as you are writing about them. So when I am writing about a killer, I am that killer. I am in his mind, which is probably why I don’t have sadistic mass murderers as characters. They terrify me as much as anybody and I wouldn’t want to be in their minds. And, anyway, most mass murderers are mundane.
'The Cumbrian gunman killed in a random way. He was determined to die and make sure everyone took notice, but his case is not very fascinating to a crime writer. The same is true of psychopaths. They don’t interest me as much from a crime writing point of view because they kill without recognisable motives. What is fascinating is when you have an educated, law-abiding person who steps over a line.’
There is, she reckons, an element of selfishness to writing, because of the space you have to create. ‘There is also what Graham Greene called the splinter of ice in the heart. If I had a friend in distress I would have no hesitation in putting my arms around her to comfort her, but part of me would be observing. That happens. With some of the most difficult things that have happened in my life, part of me stands aside and watches me deal with it. In that sense my life has been a continual narrative.’
She mentioned earlier that there were ‘differences’ in being 90, meaning physical. But what about social? How is the world of 2010 different from the world of 1930, say, when she was a 10 year-old? ‘It is a different world. When I was young our house was lit by gas. No telephone. No car. A Victorian child could have moved in with us and felt at home. Whereas if a Victorian child moved into a modern day household he would be utterly lost,’ James says. ‘Life today for a young person is all about computers and being in constant communication, with blogs and tweets, and so on. Not that that makes them any wiser.’
Though she has a graceful and precise prose style, James was once described by Kingsley Amis as ‘Iris Murdoch with murders’; her age and her conservative world-view can make her fiction seem dated at times. Her conversation, too. She says ‘golly’ and ‘my dear’, but doesn’t swear.
In a review of one of her recent novels the critic Mark Lawson wrote: ‘When reading PD James you do become nostalgic for crack cocaine, anal sex and people calling each other mutha.’ ‘Well it’s not part of my world,’ she says with a laugh when I quote this to her. ‘I try to keep away from it. I can write about it if I have to but mostly my murderers are respectable, upper-middle-class people. They don’t go in for a lot of crack.’
Her characters do have sex though. ‘Yes, they sleep together and some have been gay but I mostly leave the details to the reader’s imagination. Dalgliesh sleeps with his girlfriend and is unmarried but I don’t think you need to describe sex in detail. Same with television. All these heaving buttocks. It’s not erotic – perhaps it is for a 12 year-old, but not to an adult.’
To mark her 90th birthday, Faber and Faber have brought out a new paperback collection of her crime novels, and very handsome they look too, with their brooding covers. Needless to say, there isn’t any swearing in them. ‘Oh, I know all the swear words, my dear,’ she says, ‘and use them myself sometimes, in private. But I see no need for them in my books.’

Monday, 12 July 2010


The 'did you know?' fact from Radio Times' preview of Spielberg's film Munich this week: 'One of the victims of the massacre, Moshe Weinberg, is played by his son, Guri, who was one month old when his father died.'

the lives of others

Extract from a brief item on The Lives Of Others, the 2006 film, in Word, January 2010: 'Deserved Oscar glory followed for this claustrophobic, powerful political thriller but a tragic postscript ensued for Muhe [the actor who played the Stasi agent]. He lost a bitter court case in which he accused his ex-wife of being a Stasi agent and died in 2007 aged only 54.'

Sunday, 11 July 2010

is this the most anonymous cabinet minister ever?

Is this the most anonymous cabinet minister ever?
Picture editors always struggle to illustrate stories about Whitehall. The Times did a decent job this morning with this shot of some bureaucratic types strolling past a Whitehall street-sign. The caption says “thousands of civil servants” may be losing their jobs. But hang on a minute. Is that just a faceless paper-pusher checking his blackberry? Or a cabinet minister? Take a bow Michael Moore, secretary of state for Scotland. You’ve had your 15 minutes of fame.
- Financial Times, 7 July

Friday, 9 July 2010

there is no 'free' lemonade

There is no 'free' lemonade: In giving drink away, girls ignore rules of economics -- and sum up what's wrong with U.S.
- Terry Savage, Chicago Sun Times, 5 July. Extraordinary, horrible American economist's article demonstrates what's *really* wrong with US, and it's not happy little girls giving away free lemonade.

And here's the Monty Python Merchant Banker sketch on YouTube.

elephant and castle plans - again

Elephant and Castle regeneration plan given go-ahead
A £1.5bn plan to regenerate a traffic-choked area of south London has been approved. Southwark Council has given the go-ahead to transform a 170-acre site of Elephant and Castle, in a project which will take 15 years. The area's red shopping centre will be demolished and the gyratory road system re-routed. It will also mean the demolition of the Heygate Estate to create about 5,300 new homes, shops, and public spaces. The area has good transport links, is close to the City and the West End and is within walking distance of 11 Thames river crossings. But the council feels its development has been stifled by its post-war layout, with its six-lane roundabout, high-rise flats and a shopping centre which has been nominated as London's ugliest building.
- BBC, 7 July

Southwark agrees "momentous" Elephant & Castle Lend Lease regeneration deal
Plans for the regeneration of the Elephant & Castle took a significant step forward on Wednesday night when Southwark Council's cabinet voted to sign a deal with Australian developer Lend Lease. Wednesday's decision brings to a conclusion a three-year process that began when Southwark Council, then run by Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, selected Lend Lease as its preferred partner in July 2007. At that point a deal was expected to be agreed between council and developer by the end of 2007, but a series of setbacks saw the date pushed back repeatedly. In November 2009 heads of terms were agreed between the two parties, but a binding decision was put off until after the local elections held in May. Southwark Council passed into Labour control eight weeks ago and the new regime claims that it has secured additional commitments on affordable housing, the future of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and leisure provision for local residents. "This could well be the most momentous decision we as a cabinet take in this four-year period," said council leader Cllr Peter John as he invited his nine fellow cabinet members to endorse the deal. The deal is centred around the sale by the council of the land currently occupied by the Heygate Estate to Lend Lease on a series of 999-year leases.
- SE1, 8 July

Monday, 5 July 2010

free saturday: music village, museum of childhood

On Saturday we went to Victoria Park (surprisingly, only five stops on the tube; we've been more often that way by two buses, which can be a bit of a long haul) for Music Village, a free world music festival from Cultural Cooperation. They've had them a few years in Hyde Park (as next weekend), although we've never been, and this was the first time to also have it at Victoria Park (tying in with the Olympics build-up, apparently). It was a much smaller affair than previous Hyde Park publicity I've seen - one stage, one food stall, one info tent, quite a small audience area - but it was pleasant, and shady.

Cultural Cooperation website here; Music Village info here; Saturday's planned line-up here, though it wasn't exactly as planned. We arrived after one and left before five, so we saw bits of four artists (we took occasional wanders off to playpark, around lake, for ice cream etc): Romany Diamonds, Adel Elbrary & Sundania, Alcazaba, and Gouri Choudhury.

Romany Diamonds from programme: 'One of the world’s finest Roma violinists, Ricardo Czureja founded Romany Diamonds after migrating to London from Poland in 1998. Ricardo is passionately committed to enhancing cultural awareness to reduce the centuries-old social stigma afflicting Roma peoples. His band comprises three generations of virtuoso musicians whose combined musical brilliance goes far to achieving this. Ricardo’s son Benjamin explains that music is “what we live off; it’s our bread”. The male family members play violin but Benjamin has broken with convention and plays guitar to add a jazzy feel to the band’s music. Save for Yugoslav double bassist Viktor Obsust, all other band members are Roma and have been steeped in Roma music since childhood.' The Romany Diamonds Myspace page.

Adel Elbrary from programme: 'A venerated singer and composer in Sudan for 30 years, Adel’s performances radiate integrity and excellence. Arabic music from Egypt, including sacred Sufi chants, has had a particularly powerful formative influence on his musical development, while later encounters with artists from around the world stretched his musical horizons further still. Adel lived and worked as a manager of a camp in the Sinai desert some years ago. During that time he met and worked alongside many musicians from India, Arabia, South America, Europe and Israel. He subsequently collaborated with Israeli world music ensemble Sheva to promote peace in the region through music. Together, they recorded the famous track ‘Od Yarb Shalom Al Eina’, (Peace will come to us).'

Alcazaba's Myspace page, and reviews of their album on BBC Music and Allaboutjazz. I'm with the BBC reviewer that their jazzy fusion of flamenco, middle east and indian music was just quite dull.

Gouri Choudhury from programme: 'Bangaldeshi folk diva, Gouri Choudhury is a singer and music teacher born in Sylhet. Today she is one of Britain’s most sought after Bangladeshi performers. “Music surrounded me from a very early age and my parents encouraged me to sing. I recall performing Bengali folk songs when I was seven”. She settled in London soon after being invited to perform here. Gouri was featured on BBC television in 1997, alongside Ravi Shankar in a commemorative concert to mark the 50th anniversary of Partition. She has played all over Britain and in Canada, France and Germany. Nowadays, she performs poignant Bangla songs composed by national poets Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, and mystical folk renditions by Lalon Fokir.' A number of videos are linked from this Google search.

All in all, okay, given that we were seeing the four afternoon acts of a free festival; no great discoveries, and Gouri Choudhury my favourite, which was predictable.

After that we went to the Museum of Childhood for about an hour - my first time, apart from a school trip which was cut very short because the water had gone off (so we went to the Victoria Park playpark instead, which I'm sure the children enjoyed as much as they would have the Museum). The contents interesting, the building even more so. An hour's probably enough at a time, could get old-toyed out if you were there too long I think.