Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The crushing disappointment is palpable, isn't it? Especially in The Guardian. Last night's Newsnight reeked of it. 'Thousands' of leaked US documents, and not one of them remotely scandalous.

Last night's big lead - a few ill-tempered remarks made off the record by Prince Andrew at a brunch in Kyrgyzstan - has already dropped off the BBC News front page.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Window rant

In the North Devon village of Braunton I spotted this extraordinary display in the window of a local resident. It consists of a barely coherent rant about, I think, immigration. Alas, I suspect its author is of an age where blogging came too late, so he's stuck with sticking his views to the window and relying on passing trade. More or less the same as blogging, but without the Americans.

Impugned by Peasants and Aussies

Latest Dabbles: some colourful Anglo-Aussie quotes as the Ashes begins Down Under, and, one of the trickiest things I've ever had to write, a review of Frank Key's brilliant but almost unreviewable book, Impugned by a Peasant.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cantona speaks

Philosopher-Footballer, indecipherable actor and uber-frog Eric 'King' Cantona reckons we should all withdraw our money at once, thus 'bringing down the banks'.

Not sure why we're supposed to want to do that, but this is the man who said that thing about the seagulls (the second best thing ever said by a footballer. The best thing ever said by a footballer was Joey Barton's succinct views on the England players who released autobiographies after the 2006 World Cup: 'We got beat in the quarter-finals, I played like s**t, here's my book'.) so it seems pointless to question it too deeply.

Cantona of course appears in Looking for Eric, a film which, even by the standards of Ken Loach, patronises the working classes to an extraordinary degree. The plot - in which ManYoo fans gang up to play a trick on a bully, and the main character talks to an imaginary Cantona who helps him win back his ex-wife - reminded me of those Friday afternoon children's films that used to be on BBC. There'd always be a bully who needed a comeuppance, and imaginary sporting heroes would often pop up to mentor the put-upon hero. In fact, the only thing that prevents Looking for Eric from being marketable as a kid's film is that it has more swearing than Scarface.

Win a book!

Go and enter The Dabbler's latest Slightly Foxed competition to win a Christmas Fox.

Also over on The D I post in a brief sort of way on the puzzling painting 'An Old Woman', attributed to Quentin Massys.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Only Connect

Over at The Dabbler I eulogise BBC Four's Only Connect, the geeky quiz show. I've done so before on TofE, but feel it deserves an even wider audience than the billions who read this blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Now this is how you play foopball

There's so much junk and money in the modern game of foopball that it's necessary to occasionally remind oneself why it used to be called 'the beautiful game'...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grounds for impeachment

Can it really be true that Barack Obama has written a children's book called Of Thee I Sing: A letter to my daughters?


As presidential hobbies go, I prefer Dubya's panda-shooting or puppy-clubbing or whatever it was he did.

Art, innit

At the Dabbler I write about Antony Van Dyck's portrait of Lord John and Lord Bernard Stuart, the second in a series of short posts about paintings in the National Gallery.

I'm keen as mustard on the visual arts but have never really found a way to write about them before, partly because I'm weak on the technical side but mostly because the primary impact of great paintings is ineffable anyway.

My solution is to dispense titbits and amateurish opinions. Luckily, blogging is the ideal medium for this form of....Dabbling.

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Dabbling

At the Dabbler I collate an anthology of Remembrance poems, and curate some eclectic music featuring cops and robbers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Go, Trisha!

Further to the below, check out the first item (after Neil's usual Woganish preamblings) on last night's This Week.

Trisha, a 'lifelong leftie' supports IDS's reforms. That's not all that surprising, since apparently 58% of Labour voters support welfare reform, as does 70% of the country as a whole. What is suprising is that John Cruddas also broadly welcomes them. Funny thing is, Blair and Brown could have done all this when we had an economic boom, but they avoided it for fear of angering people like Trisha and John.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Astonishing to think that Iain Duncan Smith has turned out to be perhaps the most important politician of his generation.

Labour used to be about workers but it has somehow become the welfarist party, the only one to pretend that the most glaring problem in British society doesn't urgently need fixing. The creation of a hopeless, welfare-dependent sink-estate chavocracy is a national disgrace; it simply can't be allowed to carry on getting worse and worse.

It's still worth pausing to consider just how radical and active this Coalition Government has turned out to be. Before it was formed you'd have bet your bottom dollar that a Coalition would have fudged, compromised or avoided every issue. Yet the exact opposite has turned out to be the case: being in Coalition has enabled them to tackle the difficult issues head on without worrying about unpopularity. They're also remarkably open and unspun compared to Labour: for example, they've already announced next year's Budget date (23 March). The 'keep-it-secret-til-the-last-minute' political shenanigans of Brown and Darling used to be a nightmare for my business. Viva CamClegg!

Mon Dieu!

Jean Veber, a damned impudent Frenchie.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Religious cartoon

Over at the Dabbler I write enthusaistically about Breugel the Elder's Adoration of the Kings.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Commenters wanted

A tiny percentage of blog readers leave comments. We know this from our stats and from talking to readers we know offline. I've never quite understood why, though many people say they feel 'intimidated' or think they haven't got something clever or funny enough to say, or they perceive regular commenters to be an exclusive clique.

This is all nonsense. Bloggers are pathetically grateful for all comments short of outright abuse, and they're often a little bit grateful even for that. Even if it's just an 'LOL' or 'I agree', writers need to know that people are reading.

The upshot of which is: when you visit The Dabbler, and we know you do because The D is getting loads of traffic, why not leave a comment? Join in the fun; nobody will bite. Today we've got some splendid stuff over there, including our new Dabbler Soup recruits Jassy (who has made some Bonfire Night gingerbread) and, later today, Ian Buxton, a whisky expert. Mmmmm, whisky.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

For Nick Cohen

The mini-roundabout outside the Business Design Centre, Upper Street, Islington.

Courtesy of Google Street View.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why people move away from London

On Saturday morning I was walking towards a set of crossroad traffic lights on Upper Street, North London when, with minimal warning and indication, a small lorry, northbound but obviously finding itself heading in the wrong direction, cut across a BMW in the inside lane to turn left so that it could circle a handy mini-roundabout and then turn right to go back south again. It was a pretty silly manoeuvre but, since traffic was moving slowly from a standing start at the lights, one that was unlikely to cause serious damage had there been a collision. The driver of the BMW honked his horn and swore a bit, just as any driver in any city would.

But this is London so that wasn’t enough for him. Instead of driving off, he stopped square in the middle of the road, blocking both lanes, to continue his gesticulating. There he remained, cussing expansively the while, as the lorry turned and trundled unwittingly back towards him. If they were surprised to find him waiting for them, the lorry’s two eastern European occupants didn’t show it. They merely looked on impassively as the BMW driver – a black man of medium build and maximum ferocity - got out of his car and snarled up to them. “Yo Bruv,” he began, banging on the cab window. “What kind of move was that bruv?” Thereafter he was considerably less polite. The haranguing lasted for several minutes as the traffic piled up, hooting and hollering, behind the parked car. The haranguer was as oblivious to this rage as the lorry’s haranguees apparently were to him.

Eventually he got back in his car and drove on. Whether or not he was satisfied with his work I cannot say. The traffic jam behind him followed. When the lights changed the lorry drove on. And I walked off to get the Tube to the National Gallery. This wholly pointless scene took place at 9.30am on a lovely sunny autumn Saturday in salubrious Islington.

If you lived in London all your life you might have no conception of how nuts the city seems to visitors, of the sense that it is forever teetering right at the very edge of complete nervous breakdown.