Wednesday, 30 May 2012

london discoveries from walking the tube lines

London discoveries from walking the tube lines: Mark Mason is one of our heroes. He took on the challenge to travel the entire underground network on foot for his book Walk the Lines and survived a victorious champion, packed full of exciting London tales. He now takes people on guided 90 minute walks along different stretches of Tube lines, uncovering the area’s trivia and history. We asked him for five of his favourite discoveries from his travels...
- Time Out blog, 30 May

urban legends: phyllis pearsall and the a-z

Urban legends: Phyllis Pearsall and the A-Z. The story of Phyllis Pearsall and the A-Z is one of London’s most enduring and endearing myths. To take but one example, here’s the Design Museum‘s version of how, in 1935, Pearsall couldn’t find her way to a party in Belgravia so decided to make a completely new map of London, which she did by getting up at 5am each morning and walking every one of London’s 23,000 streets – a distance of 3,000 miles. The result was the A-Z, the first street atlas of London. [continues, to explain how this is nonsense]
- The Great Wen blog, 25 October 2010

london, france's sixth biggest city

London, France's sixth biggest city: More French people live in London than in Bordeaux, Nantes or Strasbourg and it is now thought to be France's sixth biggest city in terms of population. What is attracting a new generation of young French professionals to the city? - BBC, 30 May

Saturday, 19 May 2012

last night a dvd saved my life

Last night a DVD saved my life: A teenager diagnosed herself with cancer after watching her illness depicted in the Cameron Diaz weepie My Sister's Keeper
- Guardian,  17 May

Friday, 18 May 2012

what's boris up to?

What's Boris up to? The Mayor's plans for London are all too vague, but his plans for himself are crystal clear
- Sonia Purnell, Daily Mail, 17 May

Thursday, 17 May 2012

money becomes new church battleground

Money becomes new church battleground: Conservative evangelical churches threaten to withhold cash from pro-gay and liberal 'heretics'
- Guardian, 16 May

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

why boris won't make pm

Mary Ann Sieghart: So Boris Johnson is more popular than David Cameron. But he won't make PM. Conservative MPs wondering how they can replace their leader with the Mayor can sober up.
- Independent, 6 May

london's lost rivers

London’s lost rivers: the hidden history of the city’s buried waterways. Tom Bolton reveals the surprising stories behind the little-known rivers that still surge beneath the streets of London.
- Telegraph, 11 April. Some interesting details, but most saved for you to buy the book

a trip to the vets

A Trip To The Vets.
Today’s coverage about Andy Coulson’s vetting prompts me to write a little blog about what developed vetting is, and why people have to go through it.
When I started my job as Head of Communications at the Treasury in 2003, every induction conversation ended up with me being asked: ‘Have you been DV’d yet?’ ‘Not yet.’ ‘You’ve got to get that done.’ I soon found out why. Briefing sessions with the Chancellor ahead of international summits would be broken up as Gordon’s PPS, Mark Bowman, said: ‘Damian, you need to go out for a bit.’
- fascinating blog post by Damian McBride on being vetted

when eric met malcolm

Stornoway Gazette Reporter Eric Mackinnon met ACDC legend Malcolm Young on a family trip to Harris this month. The rhythm guitarist and founding member of ACDC was in the Western Isles to retrace his wifes island family links, as well as enjoying the spring sunshine.
- Gazette, 16 May

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

the 'leftwing bias' charge is distracting the bbc

The 'leftwing bias' charge is distracting the BBC: The idea there's bias one way or the other is a convenient myth, but paranoia about the issue runs through BBC executives
- Guardian, 15 May

Monday, 14 May 2012

god gave rock and roll to who?

God gave rock and roll to who? Over the years many rockers have found religion – so here is our pick of the pops - the top ten believers who are more at home in leathers than sweaters, and more likely to site the influence of AC DC than Graham Kendrick.
-, 1 May. Cite, obviously. Alice Cooper No 1, also obviously (it's a very heavy list).

boris johnson: two reasons why it suits him to attack the bbc

Boris Johnson: two reasons why it suits him to attack the BBC. The London mayor's extraordinary attack on the national broadcaster both feeds his Tory grassroots support and reveals his dislike of proper scrutiny.
- Guardian,  14 May


'PopSpots: The exact Spots where famous events of Pop culture took place (with a focus on New York City.)'
- there are a couple of London ones so far, including the Subterranean Homesick Blues video, which I've always seen described as 'behind the Savoy', but it turns out it's right beside the Savoy Chapel, right where I was on Saturday. 
There's also The Who in front of Big Ben, which hardly seems worth doing, although they've gone to great lengths (via Google) to find the exact angle.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

fair stood the wind for france

Finished last night Fair Stood The Wind For France, by H E Bates, in a nice old Penguin edition (orange/white/illustration cover, similar but not exactly as here, mine didn't say 'complete/unexpurgated'), which sadly I'll have to bin as its coming apart.

Always interesting to read a war novel actually written during the war it refers to. It wasn't bad, but not as good as I'd hoped - I read it like a schoolboy, wanting more of the plot of the crashed airmen in France and their escape, and less of the description and reflection and poeticism.

Friday, 11 May 2012

just boris quotes - chapter 3

Chapter 3 covers Oxford. Wins elections with laughs and political vagueness.

[Frank Luntz said] 'I told him he was so popular that even in Oxford, where Conservatives were hated, he could have run and won as an outspoken Tory. He could have changed the whole image of Conservatism but he just didn't want to do that.'
Instead Boris chose to reflect mid-80s realities by becoming a politically androgynous personality, seemingly offering something for everyone. One contemporary recalls: 'You could read anything you liked into this new Boris. So, if you were from a northern comprehensive like me, you liked the "I'm funny and you like funny, so vote for me" pitch.' (p81-82)

[Another undergraduate said] 'He did not appear partisan at all, but rather happily mushy in the middle. If you were left-wing Tory - and most Oxford Tories *were* rather than Thatcherite - then you could say he was probably "one of us." If you were part of the SDP ascendancy or a Liberal, then you thought, 'Well, he's hanging out with our lot, so he must be one of ours."' Such an astute observer as Nick Robinson, now the BBC's political editor but then President of the Oxford University Conservative Association, had no idea of Boris's true political loyalties. 'I had not the faintest clue that Boris was a Conservative. Indeed, I would have told you, if you had asked me at the time, that he was a supporter of the SDP/Liberal Alliance.' (p82. Sonia says there has long been controversy as to whether he did join the SDP as part of these manoeuvres but she thinks that unlikely.)

The chapter also reveals the interesting fact that Ken Livingstone took it up on himself to study the classics in order to understand his opponent better. (p91)

Sonia Purnell, Just Boris. Amazon will sell it to you, if you can't find it anywhere else. Go on.

gay marriage: importing america’s culture wars has backfired on david cameron

Gay marriage: importing America’s culture wars has backfired on David Cameron. The Prime Minister is in retreat over gay marriage – but he should never have picked the fight to begin with.
- Telegraph, 10 May

the woman who lives in a shed

The woman who lives in a shed: how London landlords are cashing in. Council finds people living in everything from massively overcrowded houses to a walk-in freezer – and the problem is getting worse
- Guardian, 9 May

Thursday, 10 May 2012

the evolution of evolution

The evolution of Evolution: Of all the internal debates within Christianity, the subject of evolution is one which often sparks the most controversy and argument. Should Christians accept Darwin's theory, and what does the Bible really teach?
- (new to me), 3 May

Monday, 7 May 2012

'and then thick people react to it'

Alun Cochrane said something interesting on the Frank Skinner podcast (of the 28 April programme), talking about the fuss about Lucy Worsley apparently saying in an interview (in the Radio Times, again) that she was too clever to have children (which of course isn't what she said, which was something much more nuanced and accurate about the choice between career and children, and the impact of academic qualifications/education/career path on that):
'One of the problems that happens in the media, I think, is that clever people say a thing and then thick people react to it.'

'no influence gained at no.10 dinners'

'No influence gained at No. 10 dinners'
- shock new claim
A regular attendee at the Prime Minister's Downing Street kitchen suppers has vigorously denied that personal access results in any sort of influence over government policy.
He said, 'I've tried very hard to change the Prime Minister's mind, but it has never made any difference.'
Mr Clegg, who wished to remain anonymous, continued. 'Look, I've paid a very high price to sit at the PM's table, and, believe me, I've got nothing in return. Not a sausage. Ok, possibly a sausage.'
The Prime Minister's office responded to Mr Clegg's latest intervention. 'Mr Clegg is entitled to his opinions but, frankly, they are of no interest to us.'
When pressed for a personal reply from the Prime Minister himself, Mr Cameron later said, 'Nick, can you pipe down, clear the table and get on with the washing up'.
- Private Eye, 6 April

tall story

Every night except Sunday we would be at their house listening to the stories. They had competitions for the tallest stories - a man said that he canoed up Ben Eitsheall and then the other man said that he saw him do it! The second man's story was the tallest as he had the worst lie.
- extract from 'Memories of the croft', reminiscences recorded in 2007 by Alison Kennedy, from March 2012 Back In The Day, reprinted from North Lochs Historical Society's Dusgadh

patrick moore in the radio times

I think we're certainly here for a reason. I'm absolutely convinced of it. It's an arrogance to say we are the centre of the universe.
- Patrick Moore, Radio Times, 5 May.

Mind you, in the same interview he gave his forthright and mistaken views about things like Germans (which made the news - the Radio Times have done very well in recent years in getting their interviews turned into news stories), equal opportunities ('The trouble is, the BBC is run by women'), human rights legislation ('I'd dismantle it!') and Europe ('Go to Europe and look around. The Germans tried to conquer us. The French betrayed us. The Belgians did very little and the Italians made us our ice cream. Just look at the world now and look at it when we had a bigger say in it. The English are best. Stand up for England!').

The German extract (including possible explanation):
[He was a commissioned RAF officer by 17, having fiddled his age] There have been reliable rumours of remarkable heroism; reports of Flight Lieutenant Moore climbing over the dead bodies of his pilot and co-pilot to bring his Lancaster bomber safely to land, whispers of an equally distinguished career in Intelligence. Moore, however, remains tight-lipped about his war record. 'My Group Captain said to me, "You must never talk about it." I said, "Sir, I promise," and you don't play that false.'
And if Moore adheres to the 'hush-hush' rules , it is at least partly because he feels that the threat of world domination has not passed.
'We must take care,' he says, with the utmost seriousness. 'There may be another war. The Germans will try again, given another chance. A Kraut is a Kraut is a Kraut. And the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut.
A German general said to me at the end of the war: 'You won two wars. You won't win the third. And that's the economic war.' I hope he's wrong.
It seems a long time to nurse antipathy against a nation. And it is a curious thing to watch the kindly wizard turn cold. But there is no doubting Moore's sincerity. 'Well,' he concedes, an an effort to humour the innocent, 'there can be good, free, honourable, decent Germans. I haven't met them myself, but I'm sure they exist.'
It is possible that the clue to his intransigence lies in the death of his fiancee, Lorna, killed in a wartime bombing raid. 'We were 20,' he says, falling into the staccato of suppressed emotion, 'She was killed. That was that. It happens.'
Moore's loyalty to Lorna has never wavered. In his 2003 autobiography, 80 Not Out, he confessed that after 60 years, 'There were rare occasions when I could go for a whole half-hour without thinking of her - but not often.'
This remains true. 'That is why I am a reluctant bachelor,' he says. 'It's such a long time ago now, 1940. But I still feel the same about Lorna and, if it had been the other way round, I think she'd have done the same.'

Sunday, 6 May 2012

vews of the aylesbury

Views of the Aylesbury: one of Britain's most maligned estates
When it was built it was thought of as a 'great place to live', but over the years its reputation has plummeted. Why?
- Guardian, 3 May

Friday, 4 May 2012

may ansible extracts

As others see China: In a bookshop. _Customer_ (pointing at _Perdido Street Station_ by China Mieville): 'Excuse me, how do you pronounce this writer's name?' _Bookseller:_ 'Well, I've heard people say Mee-ville, but I think because of the accent, it's Me-eh-ville.' _Customer:_ 'No, I mean his first name.' _Bookseller:_ 'Well, it's China -- like the country.' _Customer:_ 'The country?' (Jen Campbell, _Financial Times_, 7 April)

As others recall us: _Customer:_ 'Do you have a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Six?' _Bookseller:_ 'Nineteen Eighty-Six?' _Customer:_ 'Yeah, Orwell.' _Bookseller:_ 'Oh -- _Nineteen Eighty-Four_.' _Customer:_ 'No, I'm sure it's Nineteen Eighty-Six; I've always remembered it because it's the year I was born.' (Jen Campbell, _Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops_, 2012)
- extract from May Ansible