New prime minister, old Labour

Another century, another world. HT @MirrorStyleGuide

daily mirror 1945 attlee

Posted in History, Media, World War 2 | Tagged , ,


The three adults were around the fire, guarding us. I felt safe again. And I listened. Between the whistles of the crickyjeens, Mr Haddy was talking about tigers. Father laughed at him recklessly, as if daring a tiger to show itself, so he could jig it on to a tree.

He said, “This is the best part — skipping out naked, with nothing. We just walked away. It was easy!”

He had forgotten Jeronimo already.

But Mother said, “We had no choice.”

“We chose freedom.” His voice was glad. “It’s like being shipwrecked.”

Mother said, “I didn’t want to be shipwrecked.”

Paul Theroux, “The Mosquito Coast”.

Posted in Literature, Notebook | Tagged , ,

Near Cliveden

thames near cliveden

Last light of the day on the Thames, Monday.

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Politicians, Twitter & the “sneerocracy”

Is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite? Was Boris Johnson being racist when he mentioned Obama’s Kenyan heritage in that Sun article? I’m not convinced about either case. To be honest, I wasn’t even outraged by that infamous poster of refugees that Nigel Farage unveiled during the referendum campaign. Maybe my antennae are getting blunt. Or maybe I’m tired of the way people on social media love to pounce on miscreants. (Yes, I’ve done it too.) Brendan O’Neill seems to feel the same way. I don’t agree with him about Theresa May being an example of a Westminster automaton, but that’s not the point:

[W]e seem increasingly incapable of simply saying ‘I disagree with you’. In these feverish, always-on, politically tribalised times, ‘I think you’re wrong’ has been replaced with ‘OMG. I can’t even. WHAT IS THIS RUBBISH’. The former nurtures debate, the latter destroys it. In the sneerocracy, whose kingdom is Twitter, whose heroes are the snider newspaper commentators (no names!), and whose weapons are Photoshop and arch 140-character putdowns, politicians are never wrong or misguided: they’re ridiculous or pathetic or evil, creatures to be sneered at rather than engaged with.

The sneerocrats never say ‘You’re wrong to say that’ — they say ‘You can’t say that’. And in the process they freeze debate, make politicians more cautious, shrink the parameters of acceptable thought… Dreading being Twitch-hunted, politicians keep their more experimental or eccentric ideas to themselves. Fearing the wrath of a snidey commentariat, politicians play it safe.

Posted in Race, Social Media, UK politics | Tagged , , , , , ,

Twitter quote of the day

As we struggled to keep track of the ever-changing post-Brexit news, David Hepworth summed it all up: “I remember when pop music was impossible to predict and politics was rather dull.”

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , , ,

Betty’s bounce

My reissue of the week in the Sunday Times: Betty Davis gets a helping hand from Miles Davis. (The introductory blurb on the video is a tad hyperbolic – we’re not exactly talking about the Dead Sea Scrolls – but never mind.)

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The writer on a movie is like someone running the first leg of a relay race. He has to set off at full speed while everyone else stands around and wonders if it is going to be worth their while to remove their track suits. I ran my leg, arrived exhausted, and was promptly asked to run it again, and again.

Frederic Raphael, “Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut”

Posted in Film, Literature, Notebook | Tagged , ,

On Marlow Bridge

marlow bridge 2.7.16

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Another country

My Times review [£] of Margo Jefferson’s account of growing up in the African-American upper class:

negorlandHere is a corner of life that normally goes unseen. We hear so much about race in America — almost every week, it seems, some media outlet wants to start a “conversation” on the subject — that we assume there is nothing left to say. Margo Jefferson’s memoir, coy and self-conscious though it may be at times, is a reminder that there are aspects that transcend the simple framework of black versus white.

A former critic with The New York Times, Jefferson belongs to that sliver of upper-middle-class black society that used to call itself “the Talented Tenth”. These were the people who saw themselves as the enlightened, educated minority, who would be the vanguard for their less privileged brothers and sisters. “We were the third race,” Jefferson writes. “We cared for our people — but we refused to be held back by the lower element. We did not love white people, we did not care for most of them, but we envied them and sometimes we feared and hated them.”

Posted in History, Literature, Race, US politics | Tagged , , , , ,


Watching a game on television, or even with friends, is like listening in on some serious literary criticism: ‘un passaggio sopraffino, filigrana’ (‘an extra-fine filigree pass’) or else ‘un passaggio sincopato, che splendore ritmico’ (‘a syncopated passage of play, what rhythmic splendour’). The other side of the game is the ‘furbizia’. It’s the ability to tilt the game in your favour through slightly sly, but perfectly legitimate, tactics… Watch young amateur Italians and they will already have learnt all the guile from their favourite players. I sometimes go and watch  a teenage student of mine, who plays in a semi-professional league. He’s a tall central defender called Francesco. Towards the end of one game, when his team were hanging on to a one-goal lead,  he doubled up and raised his hand as an attack was on its way. The game stopped for five minutes as Francesco wobbled around, staring at the grass. He was pointing at his eyes. The parents around me started muttering: “Good old Francesco, always so professional.” As the seconds ticked away, it slowly dawned on me that he was looking for his contact lenses. The game eventually restarted but only for a couple of seconds before the final whistle. At the end, I congratulated him on the win. “I didn’t know you wore lenses,” I said.

“Of course I don’t,” he laughed.

Tobias Jones, “The Dark Heart of Italy”.

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