Monday, January 31, 2011

Intro of the Year

According to Baltic legend, when the Arctic storm wind blows down from the mountains across the tundra it heralds the arrival of the Great Wizard, Nischergurje, from the north. In his left hand he carries a gold drum hammer and in his right a Magic Drum, with which he summons his comrades.

‘Do you hear it on the wind? Do you hear its beat! beat! beat!’. The call goes out, enticing the listener to inclusion with those who are already under its spell.

Tim Headley in This is Anfield on Fernando Torres' possible transfer from Liverpool FC to Chelsea.

Brooker Blues

At The Dabbler I'm back on the DJ decks, spinning some Blue Sunday choons.

And I review Charlie Brooker's new BBC 2 show How TV Ruined Your Life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The belly of a hungry chaffinch

Over at The Dabbler at pay homage to Sid Waddell, who has probably said more great things than anyone who has ever lived.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A crack at the Jocks

It's a Burns Night special over at The Dabbler.

Ian Buxton looks at Rabbie Burns and whisky, Jassy's made supper and I examine Raeburn's The Skating Minister.

Ozzy's Coffee

Not having slept through a night for the last 15 months or so, I've got into the habit of drinking a pretty ferocious coffee at about 11am, by which time I will already have consumed a decent four mugs of tea. I find this keeps me going til my next cup of tea at about 3pm.

Given another 15 months or so, I might graduate to the Ozzy Osbourne method, as related in the ST the other week:

...the best way to wake yourself is to brew a pot of fresh coffee, then run it through the machine a second time using the old grounds. While you’re doing that, make an espresso. Then add the espresso to a mug of the double-brewed coffee. In my house, we call it a “red-eye”.

Anyone given that a go?

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Eds

So with Balls back in the saddle, Labour have now managed to end up with perhaps its two most unlikeable people in its two top positions.

Strange thing is that due to electoral boundaries and the Coalition attacks on the public sector, there's a more than decent chance they'll win the next election.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gutter press

I note that the 32-year old man arrested in connection with the murder of Jo Yeates hasn't been named. Rightly so, but how do the rules work on this?

The treatment by the media of landlord Chris Jefferies - photos that made him look as odd as possible, and lots of irrelevant tittle-tattle from former school pupils etc - was just about as low as British hackery has stooped in recent memory. The broadsheets were as bad as the tabloids too.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Things to Say with Absolute Confidence at Dinner Parties

Via Frank Key I find this magnificent quote from Elaine Scarry’s Dreaming By The Book (1999):

It is not hard to imagine a ghost successfully. What is hard is to imagine successfully an object, any object, that does not look like a ghost.

It occurred to me that this would be an excellent thing to declare, with complete certainty, at a public gathering. So, further to a suggestion from Frank, I’m hereby launching a new occasional series of Things to Say with Absolute Confidence at Dinner Parties, perhaps with a view to compiling a handbook for confident twaddle-merchants.

Do feel free to suggest your own party-stunners. Here are some to be getting on with…

1) It’s not what you know. It’s not even who you know. It’s who you don’t know in this business.

2) Muggsy Spanier was the cornet player’s cornet player (source: Dearieme)

3) I am actively hostile to the ‘New Year’. (source: Peter Hitchens, via Hooting Yard)

4) Of course, cupcakes have completely ‘gone to Prestatyn’, as the kids say.

5) Entering a room populated by other people sets in place a circumscribed illustration of how embodiment, spatiality, and otherness work together to produce what is peculiar to both the typical and atypical body. Yes, I noticed that distinctly when I came in. (source: Dr Dylan Trigg)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dabblehub update

I was on Lazy Sunday duties this week, and indulged in an operatic countdown.

Meanwhile, another great exclusive guest post this morning. The author of The Invention of Murder - Judith Flanders - takes a look at the origins of detective fiction.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Over at The Dabbler I review the first installment of new BBC 2 comedy Episodes.

I had a bit of a sitcom moment myself the other day - could have been straight from an episode of Miranda. Our house is on the market so we're desperately trying to keep things in order, to fool viewers into thinking it's bigger than it is. Anyway, back from work and with 5 minutes to go before the evening's viewers arrived, I was hurrying around making everything ready (hampered the while by Brit Jnr's amiable pesterings) and had got it all pristine and perfect, when I remembered the plug-in fragrancy device in the dining room. So I scampered in, hit the switch and as I did so heard a sickening smash. Down I gazed in horror as a bottle of red wine, which I'd knocked with my big stupid clumsy boot through the back of its rack, emptied itself inexorably over the cream carpet.

I literally gasped in disbelief. That cannot just have happened. And there was the knock on the door. And here was Brit Jnr, gleefully tottering in to see what was the fun. What did I do? I did what anyone would have done in my predicament. I put a child's trampoline over the widening stain and legged it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Over at The Dabbler - the latest fiendish quiz question...

Friday, January 07, 2011

Thursday, January 06, 2011

For Paul Collingwood

One of the many journalistic conventions at the end of a Test series (and this one is virtually finished) is to make up a composite ‘dream team’ XI of the best players from each side. Such has been the superiority of England in this gloriously unprecedented annihilation of the greatest cricket nation, that there won’t be any debate for these Ashes: it’ll be the England’s line-up for the last two matches, except Paul Collingwood will be replaced by Mike Hussey.

Paul Collingwood is the only England batsman not to have made a significant score, in a series in which batting records have been regularly smashed. But such has been the English superiority that it hasn’t made a jot of difference to the outcome. Colly’s trusty dibbly-dobblers and exceptional catching (surely only South Africa’s AB De Villiers can rival him as a fielder in international cricket?) have been much more useful to the team than a stack of runs would have been.

Anyway, this always-admirable man has timed his retirement perfectly, and his interviews have been terrific: modest and honest. "I knew this was probably going to be my last innings. I was hoping it was going to be a fairytale story and I'd go out there an crack a hundred, but I don't have fairytales."

As I’ve noted many times before, cricket – and specifically Test batting - is the one sport that, above all others, reflects life and death. All the analogies work: you live on a knife edge, the end could come at any moment through any arbitrary twist of fate; you can be cut down in your prime or have a good innings.

Sporting careers are likewise – absurdly short, and suddenly there, in your mid-30s, the glory years of your life gone. Colly is one of the lucky few afforded the greatest gift international sport can offer: the opportunity to choose the moment of his own End. Most are pushed long before they have the chance to jump. Collingwood – a true-grit Englishman - has fallen on his sword at precisely the right moment.

So long, Colly, Think of England salutes you. See you in the interminable, anti-climactic one-dayers.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gerry Rafferty RIP

Gerry Rafferty's 1978 album City to City (which includes Baker Street) has an extremely evocative sound for me, especially side 1. My dad had the LP and when we had barbecues in the yard at our house in Pompey, under the slate grey skies of an early 80s English summer, we used to stick the record player speakers out the living room window and play it over and over. I used to insist on that Rafferty, a Buddy Holly Best of and the Beatles' 20 Greatest Hits.

The opening track, The Ark, will forever be my 'barbecue music'.

Green's Dictionary of Slang

A bit of a coup for the Dabbler, as we have an exclusive post from Jonathon Green, the English language's leading lexicographer of slang, and author of the astonishing Green's Dictionary of Slang.

When I emailed Jonathon to ask him if he'd like to contribute a post about slang, he said he'd be happy to oblige, but pointed out that his only problem would be choosing, out of 125,000 slang terms, which areas to concentrate on, as the brief seemed rather broad.

'Ah yes', I replied. 'I suppose there are quite a lot of ways you could cut it. How about English slang terms for 'drunk'?'

'Drunk is no problem', he said. 'None at all.'

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Happy New Year. How was your holiday? I had laryngitis and was unable to speak. Everyone was very grateful.

Over at The D I have been musing musically - on Slade, meandering folky-rock and some irreverent and highly entertaining cover versions.