Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Mrs B took this picture of me and Brit Jnr on Saunton Sands with her phone the other month. Isn't it great when you fluke a really good photo?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Johnny Foreigner, Sport

What have I been Dabbling? Sports stars who hate sport and English as she is spoke, that's what.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Gosh, aren’t these cuts radical? The nasty Tories are trying to Roll Back The State for Ideological Purposes, is the line that Labour, Toynbee, the usual suspects, are taking.

And do you know that if all these desperate cuts announced are fully implemented (which I doubt) we will end up with a State that is the same size as it was all the way back in...wait for it...2007.

Radical eh?

(This startling fact I learnt from Economist editor John Micklethwait on Wednesday’s Newsnight.

He also explained the Big Society idea in a succinct way such that, for the first time, I grasped the point (‘Red Tory’ progenitor and ubiquitous commenter Philip Blond is, I note, woefully inept at explaining this area).

The Big Society is a project to reduce the demand for the State, not just the supply.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dear Points of View, I wish to complain....

...about the plummeting standards of journalism on the BBC News website.

One element of my day job (now only an occasional element) is to fire off digestible little daily business news stories for various websites. Coming up with these used to be a cinch because you could simply re-hash the Beeb's efforts a bit. But take a look at this risible piece of 'Peter and Jane' writing posted in the Business section today:

The government will now pocket the money raised instead. The British Property Federation said this was unfair. The government said money had to be raised from somewhere. The scheme in question is called Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

Blah de blah. The cat sat on the mat. Then I woke up.

Doubtless this decline in standards is due to the sheer quantity of daily verbiage expected of news websites these days and they're now farming out copy to Indian schoolchildren but really, things have come to a pretty pass indeed when the Beeb isn't even worth plagiarising.

Tim Lane

Over at The Dabbler I interview illustrative artist Tim Lane.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Win free stuff

Slightly Foxed have kindly stumped up a free subscription for The Dabbler. Get over there and try to win it. You can also win a Stan Madeley book if you're clever

Friday, October 15, 2010

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells writes...

Over at The Dabbler I complain about all the swearing and rudeness in the modern world.

Mugged by power

I suppose the Lib Dem predicament on university tuition fees is as stark an example as you’ll find of being ‘mugged by power’ – ie. of being exposed on issues where you thought you had freedom to trumpet wholly impractical policies because you never thought you’d ever actually have the power to implement them. I do think the Lib Dems have been very good in the Coalition thus far– they’ve been eminently sensible about everything (which is another reason why the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ could never have worked – too many actual loonies hung up on, ugh, ‘principles’). But in the long-term I worry for them.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the next Lib Dem manifesto, now that they know there’s a danger of being in government. If they want to avoid similar embarrassments,the manifesto will presumably have to be as watered down as the Tory and Labour ones. But if they do that, then they’ll lose the protest element that gives them much of their support, and still not give floating voters a distinctive reason to choose them over one of the two main parties.

I therefore tentatively predict a split, with some Lib Dems (Clegg, Laws?) joining the Tories and perhaps a few going to Labour, leaving a small rump that will be free to pointlessly and safely protest from a luxurious position of complete unelectability. And I suppose the question then is: who would care anyway?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scousers and miners

Margaret Thatcher turned 85 yesterday and, as some wag pointed out, it was nice that she could spend her birthday watching the celebrations of Scousers and miners.
The Chilean story restores faith, doesn't it. Wonderful stuff. Though having said that, I never thought Lord of the Flies rang true.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Road to nowhere

I was on the road yesterday. Leicester via Swindon. I suppose that Leicester via Swindon could well be the least interesting-sounding journey I'll ever make (though I still harbour ambitions of Hull via Slough).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shades of green

Over at The Dabbler I have posted on William McGonagall, the gloriously bad poet – guaranteed to cheer you up on a Monday.

Have to confess I wasn’t in tip top condition this morning. I was left in sole charge of Brit Jnr yesterday and it fair killed me. It’s not twice as hard to handle a mobile and headstrong tot by yourself; it’s at least fifty times as hard. At the park I was required to play ‘hold my teeny hands while I run down this hillock giggling madly’ approximately a trillion times in succession, which, combined with the ravages of Sunday morning five-a-side, left Daddy’s lower back and virtually all other joints and muscles feeling like those of a 90-year old former bareknuckle boxer this morning. However, a creaky stroll just now has restored a tolerable equanimity. I wish you could see it round these 'ere lanes in the autumn sun. By Ratty, Moley and all things holy, there’s nothing like resting your eyes, as the Small Faces put it, in shades of green.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

King Wu of Zhou

Futher to Martpol and Peter's comments in the post below, I managed to find this in the lesser known Dr Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat Returns to some Chinese Vassal States during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties...

Where are you, King Wu of Zhou?
Oh where, oh where, oh where are you?
In a flue?
Or at the Zoo?
Making gooey gluey stew?
A new goo stew!
A blue goo stew!
A new blue, glue goo, blue goo stew!
Is there blue goo in your shoe?
Oh where are you, King Wu of Zhou?

Are you floating in a moat,
In a boat,
with a goat?
Up a lamppost with a ghost?
Are you at Chief Trading Post?
Or in six-eight-four BCE
being rude to wee Xī Guī?
The wee wife of the Duke of Xī?
Duke Aī of Cài! Duke Gui of Xi!
Oh where oh where now can you be?
With your xizzle-xozzle-xoo,
Oh where are you, King Wu of Zhou?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dabbler round-up

I have recently Dabbled on the myth of LOLing (and an irresistibly hilarious Woody Allen scene), confessional pop records, and, via David Cohen, the importance of not following your passion.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Lynn Barber's mother's shopping list

In the Sunday Times mag yesterday (here, but paywalled) ungrateful child Lynn Barber laid gleefully into her late parents yet again. I particularly enjoyed this...

Then there were the weird shopping lists — Fisherman’s Friends, Nigroids, senna pods, elderflower water, tartan slippers. “Could you just pick up a darning mushroom?” my mother would say, or a summer-weight yellow cardigan, must be Courtelle not Crimplene or Dacron. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of man-made fibres but the names she gave me never seemed to appear on the labels.

…Shopping for my parents took me to dingy shops in far-flung suburbs where they still had stock left over from the 1950s. A new eiderdown — not on any account to be confused with a duvet — took me from north London to Southall….

Underwear was always a huge problem. My father demanded a particular sort of knitted cotton vest and longjohns that M&S eventually stopped making. I was in despair till I noticed they had some thermal underwear intended for skiing that looked much the same. “What’s this poofy rubbish?” he shouted as soon as he laid hands on it. Apparently it had a silky texture.

Wot, no Wild Swans by Jung Chang?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Alphabet of Nations

In the American Exceptionalism post below, Ian Wolcott remarks that there are "shockingly few country names beginning with the letter X."

This is true, although They Might Be Giants came up with an ingenious solution for their song 'The Alphabet of Nations'...