Monday, 16 November 2015


Book launch: Thursday 19th November, 7.30 pm Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, Covent Garden, London WC2

Illuminated by bright flashes of rueful wit, this is a collection to savour.  But don’t let the conversational tone of Wynn Wheldon’s poems fool you: they smile and take you by the hand and then pierce you with little needles of pathos or loss, as sharp and fiery as Cupid’s arrows.

Cressida Connolly

Here are big themes: sex and death, gods and monsters. 'I could consult The Golden Bough or Sigmund Freud and find all sorts of explanation' declares the poet. But turn instead to his frank, erotic, beguiling poems. Here are the traces of a life, the passage through it, the innocence and experience, the successes and failures, the sacred and profane, here is youth and maturity, mortality, desire, and the cooling of desire. Here we find Dionysus, a phoenix and canoeists from Birmingham. Above all, memory - the curve of a breast, the smell of sex, light falling on water - fleeting sensual impressions that will in turn linger on in the mind of the reader. I love these poems.

Anna Thomasson

Private Places is a full collection in the best sense. It is redolent with thought, in its own voice, full of perception, 'The hillsides weep into the reservoir', and fine irony, 'She gave herself to someone sound.../Who did not euphemise desire with books'.

William Oxley

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Philosophy Then and Philosophy Now

Not Danish Cabbie

Second generation Turkish cabbie in Copenhagen: "Danish football - [to my wife] excuse me because you are woman - but Danish football is women's game.  I like English football. Real mens.  I am not Danish. I not marry Danish woman. Danish women too much stress."

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


This is from my mother's novel 'Mrs Bratbe's August Picnic', published in 1965.  The character speaking is Mrs Bratbe's 17 year old Alexandra, recently expelled from school. Uncle Bunny is the Prime Minister.  It seems prescient.

p 247 Panther edition

Saturday, 17 October 2015


So far in this world cup there has been lots of good stuff, but the two best games have both featured Wakes, and Wales have lost them both.  Just.  Absolutely heartbreaking.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Wooster on a Day Like Today

“It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.” 
 Bertie Wooster 

Friday, 9 October 2015


The Islands, 1961
Curious, interesting exhibition, though I left feeling vaguely uncomfortable, as though I'd been asked to enjoy someone's desperation.  I understand that Martin suffered from schizophrenia (is that still allowed that word?), and it is almost too easy to see her art as a desperate way of controlling the world.  On each square canvas - and they are almost uniformly square - she imposes grids of faint washes of acrylic or pencil - sorry, graphite - that, in such numbers attests to an almost worrying obsession.  It is as though Durer, say, was only ever intrested in painting rabbits.  The curious, paradoxical effect is both of the very abstract, cold, and the extremely self-expressive.  The result is that there is little place actually for the spectator to play. Having said that, there are works, which, close up,  have an almost hypnotic effect, a little like the way one begins to see patterns in the wallpaper or plaster while soaking in the bath.  I like the painting - actually gold leaf inscribed with pencil - called 'Friendship', made up of pairs of contiguous oblongs, all a little different.  I liked as well 'The Islands' with its smudgy white daubs.  These seem somehow to reflect rather than impose.  They are more generous and inviting.  Against these there is a series of paintings called 'The Island' - paintings that are supposed to hang - to be seen - together.  You have to have very good eyesight to enjoy them as a single work, because, from amidships,  they resemble simple squares of white.  Of them Martin wrote that they are 'formless'.  I think the utter reverse; they are deeply formulaic - that is their essence.  What I miss from this exhibition is the physical - any sense of release: the paintings are humourless (there is hardly a curve to be seen), and, rather, in the end, loveless. I left, as I say, feeling pity rather than awe, but at least wondering, not for the first time, what the point of art is.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

SONG: Jemmy Jumps, in the Farmer

This is from a publication called Edwin's pills to purge melancholy: containing all the songs sung by Mr. Edwin, ... since his first appearance in London.  It was published by William Holland in 1788 (Holland's was on the corner of Oxford Street and Berners Street).  I came upon it while researching the life of the great Jewish boxer Daniel Mendoza, whose name appears in the final verse.  Anyway, whatever the hell it is about, it's a cracker and very probably rather low.

LOOK'E, dear Ma'am, I'm quite the thing,
Nattibus hey ! tippity ho!
In my shoe I wear a string,
Tied in a black bow, so.
Cards and dice! I've monst'rous luck;
I'm no drake, yet keep a duck,
Tho'not married, yet I'm a buck,
Lantherum swash, kee-vi.

I've a purse well stock'd with—brass,
Chinkity hey! tinkity ho!
I've good eyes, but cock my glass,
Stare about, squintum ho!
In two boots I boldly—walk,
Pistol, sword, I never balk,
Meet my a man, and bravely—talk,
Pippity pop, coupee.

Sometimes mount a smart cockade,
Puppydum hey, struttledum, ho!
From High-Park to the Parade,
Cock my cary kee,
As I pass a sentry-box,
Soldiers rest their bright firelocks,
Each about his musquet knocks,
Rattledum slap, to me!

In the Mall, Ma'am gives her card,
Cashedy me, kissady she!
Sit before the stable-yard,
Leg-orum lounge a-row;
Pretty things I softly say
When I'm ask'd our chairs to pay,
Yes, says I, and walk—away
Pennybus tartum, ho!

At Boulogne I liv'd a week,
Frickasee hey! trickasee ho!
There fine French I learnt to squeak,
Grinnybuss skiptum, ho!
Slap French clack about, hauteur,
Nevetle chef daeuvre, bon douceur,
En bon point, quel tout mon caeur
Fiddledee foll, hee hee!

Rotten row, my Sunday-ride,
Trottledum hey, tumble off, ho!
Poney, eighteen-pence a side,
Windgall, glanderum, ho!
Cricket I fam'd Lumpey nick,
Daddles, smouch Mendoza lick:
Up to, ah! I'm just the kick,
Allemande cap'rum toe

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Monday, 28 September 2015


My pal Sam's son Will is a mean guitarist.  And he has a jazz trio cleverly disguised as a quartet. Have a listen.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Poem by e.e. cummings

a politician is an arse upon
which everyone has sat except a man

p.56, Selected Poems, 1923-1958 (Faber, 1960)

Saturday, 12 September 2015


I have mixed feelings about Corbyn's triumph: shame, obviously, that a man with such repugnant associations should be the leader of a major British political party; embarrassment that the the Labour Party should have reduced itself to ridicule; excitement at the prospect of some hitherto unlikely politics; fear that a demagogue will be elected into power in 2020; but, above all, a kind of melancholy at the sheer stupidity that has brought it to pass. But, hey, what do I know? I'm just an ageing bloke with a belief in that old-time liberal democracy.  And, ok, I admit, the feelings aren't really that mixed.