Monday, 18 June 2018

Shopping for an illusion

The other day we visited a White Stuff clothes shop. I don’t know if all their shops are the same but the men’s section of this store was designed to look like the interior of an old workshop complete with an ancient, heavily scarred wooden workbench in the middle of the floor. It even had an old vice.

The walls were boarded with what appeared to be old planks and sections of antiquated wooden doors. Even many of the clothes seemed to be designed to evade any suggestion of pristine newness. The whole ambience was artfully designed to avoid a sense of shopping for new clothes.

The clothes tended towards subdued colours and some had a contrived appearance of having been worn before. Some would not have looked out of place on a Victorian labourer and no doubt that was contrived too.

The overall look of the place hinted at some kind of imaginary recycling as if to say I’m not really shopping, not really buying new clothes and not really a consumer even though the clothes were of course brand new. I didn’t buy anything.

Sunday, 17 June 2018


Blogger no longer supports OpenID for comments. Unfortunately old comments entered under OpenID have all been changed to an ID of "Anonymous" so I cannot be sure who might be affected.

To get round this I've changed the settings to accept any comment but in doing that the blog will also be open to much more spam if past experience is any guide. I'll try it and see how thing go.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Chopey plays a blinder

Experienced referee Chris Chope had to endure a storm of vituperation after sending off every player of both teams during a recent Parliamentary friendly. I’m not surprised quite frankly. Blimey - something has to be done about blatant time-wasting and constant waving to the fans in the stands. Not that there are many of those these days.

The basic problem is that the two leading teams are stuffed with overpaid prima donnas who don’t train hard enough and waste too much time off the pitch. What with interviews, publicity stunts and social media there is no time left to play real matches. As one commentator said – “I don’t know why we bother with the gits, they rarely turn up and most of the lazy sods are too flabby to last the full ninety minutes anyway.”

It’s the same old story when teams are on the slide. Not enough training, a general lack of fitness, not enough strategic nous and far too many outside interests. Not to mention waving to the fans all the time. What have this lot got to wave about anyway? Blimey - Chopey deserves a medal for drawing attention to it all.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The shadow of cholera

For many nights he lies in bed, without getting up by day. He is tired and sleepy. A harsh-voiced man comes to the bed, and says that he must not lay his hands outside the coverlet. They give him evil-tasting stuff with a spoon; he eats nothing. There is whispering in the room, and his mother weeps. Then he sits again at the window in the bedroom. Bells are tolling the whole day long.

Green biers are carried over the churchyard. Sometimes a dark mass of people stand round a black chest. Gravediggers with their spades keep coming and going. He has to wear a copper plate suspended by a blue silk ribbon on his breast, and chew all day at a root. That is the cholera epidemic of 1854.

August Strindberg – The Son of a Servant (1886 - 1909)

A quote taken from Strindberg's autobiographical novel. In 1854 he would have been five years old. It opens up a chink of light on a world without modern medical science and what a grim world it must have been. Dickens’ world, Jane Austen’s world and yet this is just one of the shadows under which they lived. Also in 1854 there was the Broad Street cholera outbreak in London.

This outbreak, which killed 616 people, is best known for the physician John Snow's study of its causes and his hypothesis that contaminated water, not air, was the source of cholera.

To my mind the most difficult aspect is trying to imagine what it must have felt like to be familiar with the dangers of cholera yet ignorant of its root cause. We often seem to take knowledge for granted yet hard-won knowledge is the gulf between now and then.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Ageing is merely a belief system says Bill

According to the Mirror Coronation Street actor Bill Roache sees ageing as a belief system.

Fit and healthy Coronation Street star Bill Roache, 86, is often asked the secret to his seemingly eternal youth. In the final extract from his new book Life and Soul, Corrie’s Ken explains how he could live to 120.

Before we look at the practical steps to wellbeing, we need to look at beliefs.

Take ageing, for example. Ageing is a belief system within the collective consciousness of humanity. It’s what we’ve collectively decided about age and what it means for our body and our lifestyle.

We don’t have to age and die at a certain time. We can extend our lifespan by pushing the parameters of the belief that we’ll only live to 70, 80 or 90 years.

I can't say it feels like that to me but perhaps I'm not a natural believer.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Stalin himself couldn’t believe it


While following up this story about our shiny new F-35 fighter jets, a meandering browse ended up with this story from the dim and distant.

The Korean conflict was less than six months old on the morning of November 30, 1950, when a U.S. Air Force B-29 Superfortress, attacking an air base in North Korea, was lightly damaged by a fighter that overtook the bomber too fast for the attacker to be identified, much less for the Superfort’s gunner to fix it in the sights of his gun’s tracking system. Straight-wing Lockheed F-80 jets escorting the bomber made a token pursuit, but the accelerating fighter rapidly shrank to a dot, then disappeared...

The first jet to fly from the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) Design Bureau in Moscow was a straight-wing fighter, the MiG-9. The -9’s rudimentary engines—twin BMW jet engines captured in Germany—fell short of the design bureau’s specs for the MiG-15, yet Moscow hardly possessed the expertise to build better ones. The first operational MiG-15s would instead be powered by Rolls-Royce Nene engines—marvelously innovated and cluelessly supplied by the British.

Keen to thaw Anglo-Soviet relations, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee invited Soviet scientists and engineers to the Rolls-Royce jet facility to learn how the superior British engines were made. Attlee further offered to license production to the USSR—after exacting a solemn promise that the engines would be utilized only for non-military purposes. The offer stunned the Americans, who protested loudly. And the Soviets? Russian aviation historian and Ukrainian native Ilya Grinberg says, “Stalin himself couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘Who in their right mind would sell anything like this to us?’ ”

If you are not familiar with it, the whole piece is worth reading.

Perhaps it is a reminder of how important it is to identify enemies and how reluctant our political classes are when it comes to this particular crunch point. As if they find it gauche and contrary to their cosmopolitan credentials. Defence of the realm indeed - it even sounds old fashioned. 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Arise Dame Emma

It is weird how the honours system always manages to rope in people who discredit the whole business. Perhaps it has become so profoundly discredited that nobody notices. To my mind the latest unworthy recipient is Emma Thompson, possibly the most vacuous voice in public affairs...

...hmm - on second thoughts vacuous voices make up a viciously contested field. One of the most vacuous voices in public affairs will have to do - the field is too crowded for further refinement.

A few years ago Jim Broadbent had this to say about honours.

“I’m not that comfortable with actors receiving honours, partly because I think they ought to go to those who really help others,” he says. “Besides, I like the idea of actors not being part of the Establishment. We’re vagabonds and rogues, and we’re not a part of the authorities and Establishment, really. If you mix the two together, things get blurry.”

But of course Emma Thompson is neither vagabond nor rogue. She is a part of the authorities and Establishment, really. That's the point of the honour.