“The supreme irony was that Viola and Alfred also came from working-class backgrounds.”  The status-conscious parents who disowned their son.

And Sinatra said, “That’s kooky, kid.” Paul Anka on writing “My Way”.

Photo-opportunity: the glamorous life of a White House journalist.

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His approach to many of the great contemporary difficulties was somewhat optimistic and facile. The very first instructions I received in 1930, when I joined the Corriere della Sera  bureau in London, were: “Do not mention the world economic crisis.” They were his own words relayed to all journalists, his way to settle one of the greatest difficulties of the times. I remember asking myself what would have happened if the Italian press had stopped mentioning the Atlantic Ocean: would Italians have drowned trying to get to New York on bicycles?

Luigi Barzini, “Mussolini or The Limitations of Showmanship”.

Posted in History, World War 2 | Tagged , ,


Good to see Stanley Spencer’s masterpiece on last night’s Channel 4 News. And there was a rare interview with his daughters, Shireen and Unity. (Jon Snow writes about his visit here.) I spent weeks  in front of the paintings when I was a gallery attendant at the Royal Academy thirty-odd years ago. Every day, there was always something new to discover in them.


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It remains one of the oddities of this war that Hitler demanded far less from his people than Churchill and Roosevelt did from their respective nations. The discrepancy between the total mobilization of labour forces in democratic England and the casual treatment of this question in authoritarian Germany is proof of the regime’s anxiety not to risk any shift in the popular mood. The German leaders were not disposed to make sacrifices themselves or to ask sacrifices of the people. They tried to keep the morale of the people in the best possible state by concessions. Hitler and the majority of his political followers belonged to the generation who as soldiers had witnessed the Revolution of November 1918 and had never forgotten it. In private conversations Hitler indicated that after the experience of 1918 one could not be cautious enough. In order to anticipate any discontent, more effort and money was expended on supplies of consumer goods, on military pensions or compensation to women for the loss of their men in the services, than in the countries with democratic governments.

Albert Speer, “Inside the Third Reich”.

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Home front

WW1 shells Imperial War Museum

“An astonishing history lesson.” Marina Vaizey is overwhelmed by the Imperial War Museum’s new  galleries devoted to WW1.

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Cuba comes to Covent Garden

There was a time, now sadly long gone,  when Irakere’s visits to Ronnie Scott’s provided my annual dose of quality Cuban music. Those were the days when everything from a Dave Brubeck standard to a vintage danzón would be given the virtuoso big band treatment. We still have Buena Vista Social Club for a little while longer, of course – the band’s farewell tour is coming up in the autumn – and I enjoyed pianist Roberto Fonseca’s appearance at Jazz à Vienne earlier this month. But as far as prestige London performances are concerned, Cubanía, Carlos Acosta’s dance extravaganza at the Royal Opera House, will be the nearest thing to a trip to Havana this summer. Contemporary dance is pretty much a closed book to me, so I have to admit that most of the first half of the evening passed me by. Although the discreet arrangement on “Derrumbe” by that versatile guitarist Ahmed Dickinson provided  local colour,  the other pieces left me with the sense I was eavesdropping on a tortuous private conversation in a foreign language. (The curse of modernism?) After the interval the arrival of a band including violinist Omar Puente and singer Gerardo de Armas raised the temperature. The populist choreography on “Tocororo Suite”, provided by Acosta himself, reminded me of the ballet sequence in “Singin’ in the Rain”: wide-eyed country boy finds himself adrift in new surroundings but finds salvation with the the help of a good woman. A hokey storyline, all in all, but the energy and athleticism of the dancers was quite stunning. What a pity, I thought, as I made my way through the stalls at the end, that there seemed to be so few Cubans or people of colour in the audience. I scanned each tier in turn. No joy. And it was the same in the foyer. But then Covent Garden has always been another country.

The Independent’s review is here.

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Walther Funk, who was both Minister of Economics and president of the Reichsbank, told stories about the outlandish pranks that his vice-president, Brinkmann, had gone on performing for months, until it was finally realized that he was mentally ill. In telling such stories Funk not only wanted to amuse Hitler but to inform him in this casual way of events which would sooner or later reach his ears. Brinkmann, it seemed, had invited the cleaning women and messenger boys of the Reichsbank to a grand dinner in the ballroom of the Hotel Bristol, one of the best hotels in Berlin, where he played the violin for them. This sort of thing rather fitted in with the regime’s propaganda for all Germans forming one “folk” community. But as everyone at table laughed, Funk continued: “Recently he stood in front of the Ministry of Economics on Unter den Linden, took a large package of newly printed banknotes from his briefcase – as you know the notes bear my signature – and gave them out to passers-by, saying: ‘Who wants some of the new Funks?’” … Hitler’s eyes filled with tears of laughter. When he had recovered, he launched into a monologue on how hard it sometimes is to recognize a madman.

Albert Speer, “Inside the Third Reich”.

Posted in History, Notebook, Uncategorized, World War 2 | Tagged , ,

Marty Feldman’s finest moment(s)


He would have been 80 years old today. And it’s 40 years since the film was released. I can’t believe it.  Until a few minutes ago, in fact, I’d completely forgotten he was also in the original Four Yorkshiremen sketch, BP (Before Python). Thank God for YouTube.

Posted in Comedy, Film | Tagged , ,

Bad night out

“He spent half of the show wearing what looked like a chain-mail gimp mask. This novel piece of theatre quickly grew tiring.” A Kanye West concert that sounds so grim I almost wish I’d been there.

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Penalty shoot-out

Brazil soccer fans react as they watch the penalty shoot out of their team's victory against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo

Watching the Brazil-Chile game at Guarulhos International Airport, São Paulo. By Eddie Keogh.

Posted in Brazil, Photography, Sport | Tagged ,