Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Monday 30 July 2007

Card or cad?

Boris Johnson obviously thinks he's a bit of a card, but anyone else who's read Arnold Bennett (and if you haven't you should) will know that, in addition to being identified with the great cause of cheering us all up, Denry Machin wasn't exactly a model of civic virtue.

And at least he put some thought into his enterprises. On the other hand, "recruiting the ablest people across London, of whatever political affiliation, to formulate new policies...." doesn't sound like the outcome of prolonged or deep strategic thinking. I mean, we'd all get someone in to do the dirty work if we could.

Saturday 28 July 2007

Not very green, but...

spectacle often wins out, doesn't it?

Qualifying heats for the Red Bull Air Race today:

But diamondgeezer has a much more exhaustive account of it all for people who really like that sort of thing.

We also had an unexploded bomb* turn up the same day, which closed a lot of roads around.

Isn't life exciting?

**(except that it turned out not to be).

Friday 27 July 2007

Seats upstairs, guv

Once upon a time, when exposing my knees in public was considered only normal (because I was a child and Long Trousers were grown-up), there used to be people called conductors (and, yes, conductresses) on buses.

And one of the things they did was to chivvy people upstairs to a seat, rather than let them block the lower deck and gangway.

Nowadays, of course, drivers have got their hands full driving. On some models of bus, I rather think, they have no way of knowing whether or not there are seats empty upstairs, even if they felt inclined to get into managing passenger behaviour, which understandably they don't.

For those of us who manage to get upstairs, it makes for a rather pleasantly uncrowded ride (provided there aren't too many teenagers who treat it like party central). But why do people herd together downstairs like that?

I'm not grumpy (much), just puzzled.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Of the Naming of Names

I wouldn't normally bother with this sort of thing, but here's a real YCMIU.

On the other hand, perhaps you could.

It seems to me this is getting like the naming of pedigree dogs: a series of pedigree names and then the everyday pet name in brackets, like Champion Godalming Liontamer Fluffybits III (Oi you)

I can see it becoming more formalised:

Braindead Footballer and Silicone-Enhanced Model announce the arrival* of

Lafifilisha Frangipani Valrhona/Freixenet/Brabantia/Tenalady** (Doris)***

The President of the College of Branded Personalities and the Chief Sneerer of the League of Chat-Show Hosts, Comedians and Associated Scoffers have graciously consented to register the child in the Annals of Celebrity (usual terms and conditions apply).

*it will be bad form to reveal whether this was by normal conception and birth, Caesarian, turkey-baster, IVF, adoption or abduction, in order to protect the TV documentary rights
**Depending on sponsorship negotiations
***Nobody disses his Gran. She's not speaking to hers.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

How sweet....

I've just received this at my office email address:

Subject: Re[5]: Nice to meet you! |
Hello to you

I need someone to make the stars brighter, to make the rainy days not so
I need someone to make me smile, someone who will love me.
I need someone who will give me a hope and love when I am feeling down.
I need someone who will support me and help me reach the top of happiness.
I need someone who will care, someone who will never betray and go away.
I need someone who will comfort me, someone who will cheer me on, and hold my hands through night, noon and dawn.
I need only you! My intuition is so strong that I don't believe that it can say lie.
You are a man of my dream.
I will wait for your reply here
[URL removed: I'm not that daft]

Sincerely yourth

Well, I was tempted to start a little light flirtation by email, if only to see if there's the makings of something like this in it. But honestly, would it have been worth it even if some entirely sincere stranger had sent it?

Monday 23 July 2007

On The Tour (Part 2)

Now I'm sure the people who decided the locations for the National Gallery Grand Tour are 'avin' a larf. This is Caravaggio's Salome receiving the head of John the Baptist. You can make up your own jokes.

Sunday 22 July 2007

Where to go with a visitor from Australia ...

(especially in the weather we've been having)? Fortunately, he's an ex-Londoner and had his own ideas - so in the last few days:
we've walked along the river from Richmond to Kingston and found a heron without any apparent fear of humans

A heron looks for lunch

we've had a cream tea at the Mudchute City Farm (highly recommended - not as a genteel, tablecloths and lace doilies social experience, but the scones and jam are to die for)

Piggy seeks friends...

we visited the Royal Festival Hall to look at the new panoramas opened up by the refit

we got caught in Friday's torrential rain, went into the V&A for an hour or so, emerged into bright sunshine and visited Prince Albert

Albert Memorial

From there, we went on through Hyde Park

Hyde Park

We came across the Serpentine Gallery and were intrigued by the current exhibition of Hreinn Fridfinnsson. I'm not that good with conceptual art, but I liked the play of reflections, and the inside-out house. The Guardian pronounced itself "baffled but strangely moved", which is about as much as I could say.

And we went to Portobello Road market, not buying anything. Portobello Road
I nearly bought an old edition of Jacob Faithful by Captain Marryat, all about a hard upbringing in Victorian London, and full of moralisms that would produce the opposite reaction today: Locomotion was not to her taste - gin was (attagirl!)

So much all for free: what's not to like about summer (even this summer) in London

Thursday 19 July 2007

Wednesday 18 July 2007

If Boris Johnson's the answer....

... then David Cameron must be asking the wrong question (no surprise there, then).

Johnson's a bit of a Wodehousian throwback (albeit with a chin): he comes across like Tuppy Glossop, but I think he's a bit of a Roderick Spode on the sly. Not that I think he's anything like a fascist, just that he thinks politics is only about having opinions, and that his opinions are incontrovertible simply because he has them. All he's known for managing is the house journal for self-important and self-satisfied contrarians - it would be interesting to see what sort of a fist he would make of a ladies' lingerie shop (as Spode's dark secret turns out to be): but for heaven's sake keep him away from anything big. Like buses.

Monday 16 July 2007

I watched The Zimmers Go to Hollywood last night.

Leaving aside the evident similarities with last year's Channel 4 documentary on Young@Heart (I missed the start so there might have been some acknowledgement of them in the Zimmers programme - some hopes), I couldn't help feeling that for all its evident good intentions there was still something a bit superficial about the show. Perhaps it was the focus on getting out a single and creating just another show-business ballyhoo (for heaven's sake, smashing things up was childish when people did it in their 20s, it doesn't become any less so when people think you're well on your way to your second childhood). And we can all guess how long the ballyhoo will last, and what the chances are of its really changing people's attitude, can't we?

I'm still a long way from real old age, but I don't intend to be "wonderful for my age", I intend to carry on doing whatever I'm good at by anyone's standards for as long as I can. I'd rather rage against the dying of the light on my own terms, thank you very much. I think I can do without the chance of being patronised by the likes of George Clooney.

And on a happier note, I loved Sunday night's Prom with the performers from Soweto playing and dancing to Rameau. A wonderful evening, and not in the way one would expect from the words "French Baroque". Such joy, such life, such professionalism and artistry.


the digital notes were across the bottom of the TV screen where all the action was. Doesn't anyone think about this? (I will forgive the temporary appearance of the Cbeebies smiley across the Requiem: think of it as an omen of the smiles to come).

Sunday 15 July 2007

Ode to YOY

Irritating as they can be, acronyms for conventional phrases in internet communication can be a useful way to save time. Any problem is with overuse and misuse - like adding LOL to every post however dull, or using IMHO to preface an opinion that the poster obviously thinks is universal wisdom. But it is quite handy to use AFAIK or IIRC to indicate you're not entirely sure about what you're about to say, and are willing to be corrected.

That, of course, seems to be a rare form of discourse on the internet. What one mostly sees is text-speak for da yoot, and I thought of developing a few for us grumpy wrinklies. IDBI!!!!! would be an obvious one; people who remember Mr. Growser would welcome IONTBA!!

To my surprise YCMIU is already in use, not that I'm quite in that part of the grumpy spectrum. The really elderly and grumpy might find PTSA useful.

And the only reason I can suppose why people aren't already using YOY is that you don't normally type in green ink (yes I do know that financial people use it to mean year-on-year, how dull).

Anyhow, time for bed - so TTFN.

Friday 13 July 2007

On the Tour

No, not the Tour de France (that's so last week). We're talking art: the National Gallery Grand Tour is a brilliant idea - full-size prints of works from the Gallery's Collection on show in the streets.

But why only the West End? If the idea is (according to their press release) "Rather than the public seeking out its art - art is seeking out its public", why does it have to aim at "interrupting [people's] everyday lives and reminding them of the treasures" only when they're "just around the corner"?

Why not all over the suburbs - especially those where most people might not think of visiting the Gallery?

And what governed the choice of locations? This image is Psyche showing her sisters her gifts from Cupid. A back alley off Leicester Square - where it's been put - brings quite other "gifts from Cupid" to mind: well, maybe it's just my mind.

Still, it's a good start: but next year - what about Whitechapel, Harlesden, Colliers Wood?

Thursday 12 July 2007

Green or what (part 2)

I've just installed one of these. I'm not metered, so it's not going to have any immediate financial benefits for me, but it does a little bit to save water. In fact, I rather think it does quite a lot. Without going into too much detail, it's surprising just how much (ahem) is shifted by the minimum setting (about half the normal volume of a flush). But oh, the agonies of indecision it presents to a guest: you could hardly experiment, so how do you ask what setting to use? I'm just a social sadist, that's what it is.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Tin ears

I've only just noticed the Conservatives' new slogan "Our society. Your life". It rather invites the response "My life. None of your business." Are they all so tin-eared that no-one noticed the resemblance to this much-derided poster from the early days of WW2?

I just happen to have been watching the Fry & Laurie Jeeves and Wooster, and this slogan's de haut en bas tone seems all too familiar. Keeping up the act as Madeline Bassett was clearly too much of a strain; the nanny state may be old hat, so it's straight to the Aunt Agatha state: Bertie! You must marry!

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Green or what?

What a buzz around the Tour de France in London. I'd thought I wouldn't bother, but it's not as though it's going to happen here often, even with Mayor Ken's endless round of circuses for us plebs. So I went to play with my camera (some results below) at the publicity parade and for the official start, since Greenwich is so close to home.

It was great fun to see the French touches (a gendarme motard in the advance guard of the start riding along "no hands" while he adjusted his gloves) and hear some characteristically French horn-hooting on an English weekend. Plus, I think people were all a bit dazzled by the sudden return of that strange yellow thing in the sky..


for all the local emphasis on getting people cycling (a rather desperate-sounding loudspeaker appeal in the publicity parade to Keep Biking! as though we were all about to wobble into a lamp-post), the Tour looks more like a bloated motor rally. And as commercialisation has overtaken professionalism - well, let's just say it hasn't done the cyclists' collective reputation any favours.

But as ever, it's as much about the spectators putting on a show for each other as about the reality of what they're watching, and by all accounts we've all done very well. Here's what the Sunday morning looked like at Greenwich: