Sunday, December 31, 2006


Last Post

for 2006 that is. Can’t let the year slip away without saying thank you to my few loyal readers. I started almost a year ago to give me a bit of confidence to express an opinion (any opinion actually, since the worst insult I ever had was from a relative who described me as harmless) and I said I didn’t care if no one read it. But I lied. It is fun writing it, but that’s as nothing compared to the thrill I get when you, dear reader, bother to take the time and trouble to leave a comment – up yours is acceptable too - well, almost!

Although our recent dismal performance in the Ashes was a bit embarrassing, if winning celebrations have to include the repellent gloating that the Aussies have just indulged in along with the endless jokes about what a useless bunch the other team are, I think I’d rather we carry right on being losers. Besides, they can’t have it both ways – either they won because they’re geniuses, or because we were hopeless – which is it?

I’m a big fan of AA Gill and am often helpless with laughter at his very funny, if somewhat cruel, restaurant reviews (firm but fair is his view), but it’s his more serious pieces that really show what a marvellous writer he is. Mr & Mrs Cliff gave me Gill’s latest book Previous Convictions for Christmas – a collection of his articles on people and places - and I’m caught up in alternating waves of delight and despondency with it – delight at such a great read, but despondent when, though the same is true for any other writer I care to compare myself with, I realise that I couldn’t write even one sentence as good as he fills every page with (see, as if to confirm it, I’ve committed the sin of ending that one with a preposition). Even in the Foreword there’s an entertainingly told account of his dismay, on the day he received the proof of his book, at finding that the title had been used before, by none other than his first wife’s famous father Cyril Connolly, which he describes as follows: there is no pain in the literary world as masochistically, self-despisingly painful as title envy. All authors have a secret list, a buried hoard of sure-fire, brilliant, memorable, posterity-guaranteeing titles – if only they could come up with the small inconvenience of a book to act as a plinth. He rang his ex wife to explain that he had no idea her father had used it previously (I must find out the dates involved in that story, as you wonder why he wouldn’t follow the fortunes of a famous ex relative), but she persuaded him that he should use such a good title and keep it in the family. And if the rest of the book is as good as the first chapter - discovering his hidden hippie at Glastonbury - I’ll be well pleased.

Finally got round to picking up Rob’s personal possessions and one of the most poignant was a book by Brandon Bays on her successful fight against cancer, that he used to take on all his day-long treatment sessions. It made me smile because we’d arrive at the hospital, he’d pull out his book but he could never stop talking long enough to read more than half a page. Maybe if he had …

Liked the following snippet of family conversation:

J to S: ‘what are you up to tomorrow?’

S (with a groan): ‘gotta babysit Ella’.

Nothing wrong with not enjoying the prospect of babysitting, but isn’t it a bit odd when it’s your own baby?

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Crime and Punishment

There’s nothing like an unticked Christmas To Do list to push the mind’s panic button into finding a handy escape route and indulging in contemplation of total irrelevancies, such as the subject of punishment. Not the straightforward domestic, grounding the kids sort, or even the manacling of the town’s maniacs variety, but the sort we secretly reserve for those we believe have wronged us and the punishment we think ‘fits the crime’. Most of us like to believe that ‘what goes around, comes around’ but if that’s true, why doesn’t the greedy opportunist who treads on anyone to get what he wants end up penniless in a damp bedsit and the mean-spirited person, alone and friendless, instead of escaping scot-free? Well just maybe, these people get a much harsher punishment than anything we dream up for them, because they spend their entire lives never understanding the effect their actions have on others, or why they receive less than they think they deserve and bitter that respect and admiration always fall short of what they regard as their right.

Fascinating little piece of history and psychology rolled into one today on breakfast TV. The voice of the Speaking Clock has been changed – the cut glass accents of the females and the one of the authoritative Shakespearean male have gradually given way to this latest, much warmer, friendlier version. I don’t recall ever ringing the Speaking Clock and wondered who on earth did, but some research showed that it’s at two minutes to five in the afternoon, when all those office workers are preparing to clock off, that the largest number of calls are clocked up, making sure that no one has to take a long call before 5 0’clock ticks round.

Funny thing about blogs - my loved one noted that a blogger we know wrote better than he spoke! Of course, isn’t that one of the reasons for doing it?

Friday, December 08, 2006


Look what the wind blew in

Listening to the reporter from Sky News asking witnesses to the tornado that hit London yesterday, to describe their area and how they felt about the terrible damage that had been wreaked upon it, I wondered what would have happened if such questions had been asked in a courtroom. I can’t help feeling that before they could respond that they were “agog” and “aghast” that a tornado had struck their “very nice area, with a real mix of people” (as if tornados usually strike only nasty places that deserve it) someone would have jumped up and said “objection your Honour, she’s leading the witness”. A consoling factor of this unusual phenomenon apparently, was that it had brought the residents together as a community, including a lady who hadn’t been out of her house for two years, who’d finally seen the light of day when her roof was blown off

Thursday, December 07, 2006


New York, New York

Yes, it really is a wonderful town – the buzz it gives you is like no other, swivelling your head fast and furious to scuttle across roads safely, take in skyscraper marvels, watch convoys of siren screeching NYPD cop cars racing by, all the while being entertained with snatches of local speak that sound straight out of a TV sitcom. We also got to eat a delicious steak and see a Broadway show – a slick, fast and funny version of The Producers, with flawless performances from every member of the cast. On my list of Must Do recommendations would be a guided tour arranged by Apple Greeters - an organisation with the great idea of employing volunteers to show you around whatever part of New York you want. Our Greeter was a delight, her inspiring motive for volunteering simply wanting everyone to love New York as she did. She showed us Greenwich Village with infectious enthusiasm, regaling us with amusing anecdotes about her conversion from Irish Catholic to Jew, a sermon by her Rabbi on the dangers of condensing a story into a single sound bite, such as the “blue dress” in the Monica Lewinsky affair, not knowing that Monica was in the congregation, and the many protests against the war in Iraq in Union Square which go unreported in the press. Her view of President Bush as an ignorant man whom she was embarrassed to have representing her, contrasted sharply with that of a taxi driver, who thought him a good and intelligent man. On my What Not To Do list would be don’t kid yourself the trip is a money-saving exercise. Ok, the pound now buys almost two dollars and some things are cheaper, but with the tax on your purchases, the cost of the flight and the skyscraper cost of hotel rooms, you’ll need to spend a heck of a lot to save anything, so just enjoy the New York experience. What I love best about the city is the stunning art deco architecture. It may sound a bit wet, but Grand Central Station made me cry – it really is beautiful and buying train tickets seems almost incidental in a setting of such grandeur, tranquillity (yes, I know it’s crowded but it was somehow tranquil) and eating lunch to an awe inspiring light show played to the music of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. And the Empire State building - one of the few places that doesn’t look better lit up at night. Someone once said they always took their lunch under the Eiffel Tower because it was the only place in Paris where he didn’t have to look at the damn thing but I didn’t want to go to the top of the Empire State Building precisely because it’d be the only place I couldn’t see it. And on our last night, dinner in Little Italy – as good a meal as I’ve ever eaten in Italy itself but with the added bonus of some New York humour thrown in.

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