Tuesday, 25 April 2017

GE 2017

For the first time in my political life, I don't feel like a dissident approaching a General Election.  While my friends have almost always leaned left, I have tended to lean right, in a libertarian way so far as social policy is concerned and in an anti-badguys way with regard to foreign policy.  I've tended, I believe, to vote with my head rather than my heart.  Pragmatism has always appealed to me more than idealism.  I can't believe in a perfect world; indeed I believe the attempt to promote one is getting on for diabolical. Perhaps that makes me fundamentally conservative - I think that people make mistakes, act badly, pave the road to hell with good intentions, and so on.  I don't think you can force them to do otherwise. So, anyway, this time round the nasty party is  Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, not least for its sneering dismissal of the anti-semitism in its ranks. It is also obvious that Corbyn and his team are so clearly incompetent, that policies hardly matter (not that the party appears to have any that its members can all agree upon).  Corbyn is used to operating, manoeuvring, politicking, at local level. He is a small-minded man.  He was much involved in London Labour Briefing, an arm of Militant Tendency, the inflitrating far left organisation with which Neil Kinnock so almost-thoroughly dealt (Momentum is its child). Corbyn was pro-IRA, pro-USSR, pro-PLO. is anti-Israel, is pro-Iran and pro-Putin, supports Hamas, and thinks that the socialist dictators of Venezuela and Cuba are dandy fellows.  He is a Bennite Brexiteer.  If you want to vote for him, fine, but there is no moral high ground to be gained or even had: it is a vote for a destroyer.  I have no love for Theresa May, and I don't at all like the tone of much of the Brexit rhetoric - it seems to me fundamentally indecent.  Most of all I fear a complete absence of Opposition, which a Corbynite Labour Party promises.  Were Nick Clegg leader of the Liberal Democrats, I would have no hesitation in voting for his party.  He has faults, but certainly not those of Corbyn (whose faults are both moral and managerial), and not those of Theresa May, who seems nervous and control-freaky and overemphatic.  As it is, I shall have to vote for it hesitantly.  Though I can just about understand a Green vote, there is little choice otherwise.

Friday, 21 April 2017


Silk Street Theatre, Barbican
Declan Donnellan / Nick Ormerod
Orlando James (Leontes) Natalie Radmall Quirke (Hermione)

RM, NM, RW, CC, WW, Matilda W, Roland W

This was riveting.  Neither pious on the one hand nor indulgent of a director's fetish on the other.  It took liberties with the text, but in service to the play.  Proper theatre.  And such an extraordinary play, containing a bit of everything, switching from tragedy to comedy without a hiccough, maintaining a current of high emotional power throughout. There were moments when i found myself not breathing, and 'Oh, she's warm' nearly undid me   Orlando James's Leontes was exceptionally persuasive in all his extreme passions - for his friend, in his jealousy, in his pain, and in redemption.  A tincture of camp added a theatricality which did not upset. NRQ's Hermione, sometimes very quiet, had exactly the right degree of dignity and indignation. The club throughly enjoyed itself.  NM and RM were a little snooty - perhaps rightly so - about the high jinks of the sheep-shearing festival (done as a kind of game show, and enjoyable), which denied us some of Perdita and Florizel's sweetest a-courtin', and none of us could really hear Joy Richardson as Paulina.  Sam Woolf as Florizel was very well spoken (in both senses), but the real star was the company itself, which gave this production verve and punch, and left one feeling invigorated on leaving the theatre. 

Monday, 17 April 2017


Crouch End Open Studios 13 -14 May 2017
Garden Flat, 33 Clifton Road, London N8 8JA
Chrissie Hynde, in a recent documentary, said she likes to walk through cemeteries calling out the names on the tombstones. “When,” she asked, “was the last time their names were heard out loud?”

KNOW ONE is an exhibition of images and words, an exercise in imaginary reconstruction. Three artists – two painters and a poet – have picked one name from a memorial or gravestone from each of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ Victorian cemeteries: Kensal Green, West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, Brompton and Tower Hamlets. With a little research each character has been reimagined and in some sense reinvented. This is not an attempt at resurrection, but rather a way of bending memory to the present. To walk through a cemetery is to walk through a community of unknown, but completed, and now largely forgotten lives. Know One asks us to do a little remembering, even if that requires fictional accounts of lost lives. Memories, even our own, perhaps especially our own, are often false. We create narratives of our lives that seen from an objective viewpoint might be unrecognizable. Our subjects, our no-ones, stand for all those forgotten lives, our own (as they will be in due course) included.

Wynn Wheldon is a critic and poet. He has published two collections of poetry, Tiny Disturbances (Acumen, 2012) and Private Places (IDP, 2016). His most recent book is a biography of his father, Huw Wheldon, Kicking the Bar (Unbound, 2016). He is married with three sons and lives in North London. He walks his dog everyday in Hampstead cemetery. www.wynnwheldon.com

Sue Spaull’s paintings owe a lot to the Old Masters, adopting some time-honoured techniques which she uses to her own ends. Her paintings create a narrative, through her use of composition, paint application and setting. Her play with classical techniques, where images emerge and disappear as the underlying grisaille is at times exposed, at times overlayed with glazes and paint, contributes to the sense that she is capturing forgotten memories through her series of Know One paintings as she re-imagines aspects of lives once lived.
Sue has had her work shown at the Mall Galleries as part of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition and in the Federation of British Artists Exhibition. Other exhibitions include What are you looking at? (solo), The Strand Gallery, Progression, the Menier Gallery and The Breakfast Club, Underdog Gallery. She was recently commissioned by the Old Vic to paint a portrait of Glenda Jackson for the publicity for her performance of King Lear. Sue is Deputy Head of Painting at The Art Academy, London. www.suespaull.com

Sue Spaull
Lydia Emma Booth (Sue), 2017 Oil on linen
20 x 30 cm

Sirpa Pajunen-Moghissi uses a variety of materials to rebuild the stories of these chosen names. She tries to untangle the lost memories and create images that are loosly based on facts; she borrows both from her own family history and some from the research that is done of each subject. Her art works are created through multiple layers and by a process of deconstruction and rearrangement.
Selected Exhibitions include Royal Academy Summer Exhibition; Hide and Seek, Highgate Contemporary Art (solo); Camou age, Koleksiyon, London; Scandinavia; A Celebration of the Nordic Province, London and Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki, Finland. She is also co-founder and
director of ArtKapsule.

Sirpa Pajunen-Moghissi
Lydia Emma Booth (Sirpa), 2017 Collage, watercolour and spray paint on giclee print 

(Hahnemühle Photo Rag Pearl , 320gsm)
61 x61cm

For further information or hi-res images please contact: Sirpa Pajunen-Moghissi tel. 077 11 00 88 98, email: sirpamoghissi@hotmail.com 


from The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, Mrs Clack's Narrative

Oh, be morally tidy. Let your faith be as your stockings, and your stockings as your faith.Both ever spotless, and both ready to put on at a moment's notice!

Sunday, 26 March 2017


My boy's latest (it's all in the genes you know...)

Arnold, Thomas

Phänomenologie als Platonismus

Zu den Platonischen Wesensmomenten der Philosophie Edmund Husserls

[Phenomenology as Platonism: On Platonic Moments in the Philosophy of Edmund Husserl]


Saturday, 25 March 2017

A DEAD STATESMAN by Rudyard Kipling


I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling


"...the convulsed sea to Peter Cook's controlling moon."

Howard Jacobson, Death of Dudley

Saturday, 18 March 2017


To write anything satisfactory you need an undistributed mind and a supply of special first-class energy, a strong sense of self-value which it is delightful to express, the stomach of a lucky general, ‘the subtle experience of his medium which conserves the strength of the quarryman’, the wiliness of the fly-catcher, the grasp of the octopus, the patience of the sheep-dog, the acumen of the microscope-gazer, the taste for high adventure of the Amazon explorer, a head for heights and the nerve of the tight-rope walker, the intuition of the water-diviner, the submissiveness of the nun, a tolerance for claustrophobia and discomfort as of a large square peg in a small round hole, a voice ready to contradict every sentence written, the endurance and piety of a true believer wrestling with doubt, the impatience of Job but of no other kind, and a realisation (which becomes an old familiar) that the pain of the process in which all these qualities are at work, more or less competently, requires the composure of wisdom.  Any question arising, therefore, as to the identity and the value of the writer-yourself to the scheme of things – the World at large – and that question will be felt on the general’s stomach, the explorer’s heart, the high-wire nerve, the intuition, the grasp, and finally will penetrate the finger-bones where it inhibits completely the action of the aching pencil.  In this circumstance, writing does not take place, wisdom goes out of the window and desperate acts occur such as over-eating, over-drinking, foul temper, physical violence offered to inanimate objects; an occasional tendency to feel like dying is offset by the disobliging interest in the thing that never completely fails owing to the work of the ego, the will, virtue and appetite.

Jacqueline Wheldon
from The Leopard on Kamak San

Friday, 17 March 2017

from 'Braveheart' by Mick Imlah

THE SPRING: - and as her ice draws off the glen
Scotland gets up, and is herself again

Opening lines of Braveheart, by Mick Imlah

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


A thing that drives me nuts is the misattribution of quotations. There is, for example, a piece, sententious and a little sentimental, called 'Success', that the entire world seems to think was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The fact that it cannot be found in any of his works you would have thought enough to dissuade people from so attributing it. Quite apart from that, it simply doesn't read like Emerson. In fact it was written by a woman called Bessie Anderson Stanley, in 1904. It was submitted as an entry into a competition, the theme of which was 'What is Success?' She won. The prize money was $250 dollars, with which she paid off the mortgage on her house. So why the misattribution? I think because Emerson has intellectual heft, and therefore lends the piece a certain gravity that it doesn't really have. The other reason is that Ann Landers - the pen name of a Chicago newspaper advice columnist, whose column was syndicated all over America - said that it was by Emerson. Eventually she admitted her error. There are several versions of the piece (it was not written as a poem). Who does the alterations? Who knows? Maybe Ann Landers, maybe Chinese whispers.

Another frequent misattribution is to William Golding on the subject of women. People who don't care for accuracy glue his sentence (taken entirely out of context) "I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been" to the words of a New York 'urban novelist' called Erick S. Gray. Again the intention presumably is to use Nobel prize winner Golding's name to give the quote some kind of weight.
Of course all other quotations, it is well known (excepting Shakespeare), are by Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain or Bernard Shaw.

Friday, 10 March 2017


This is the Index to 'Russia for Beginners' by Alex Atkinson and Ronald Searle.  A masterpiece of the genre, I think you'll agree.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

THE DIG by John Preston

One of those rare short books I think I'll one day read again, like J.L. Carr's 'A Month in the Country' (for my money one of the best novels in English of the 20th century).  Quiet, quietly humorous, wistful, about something real, slow, page-turning, mysterious (though you know what happens).  It has that quality in a drawing that we prefer over the finished oil.  A series of unfinished stories we haven't even seen begun, within one straightforward unearthing. Like the boat itself - oh, sorry, it is 'about' the discovery of the Sutton Hoo treasures - the stories remain forever beyond whole knowledge.  Just as a King once ruled and was buried with all honour, so we know that people once dug him up. The lives of all remain a mystery.

Contains one of the most tender and beautiful love scenes in modern literature.

My thanks to Jody Tresidder for the recommendation.


Saturday, 18 February 2017

HOCKNEY at the Tate

First response to the Hockney. It is no good pretending that part of oneself does not tend to go to art exhibitions out of a sense of piety, of 'ought'. But Hockney is different. Hockney is a pleasure. It is impossible not to smile at the Tate. Here is an artist who, for all the personality in the pictures, for all the scenes of his life and friends, seems somehow without ego. Nothing is being angstfully expressed. Instead we have an explosion of seeing. The generosity is overwhelming. Even without colour, in the charcoal drawings, we are being invited in not to the artist's soul but into a way of looking and seeing. Shall be going again and again. Worth joining the Tate just for this.

PARTY ANIMALS by David Aaronovitch

Just finished David Aaronovitch's engrossing 'Party Animal: My Family and other Communists'. Hardly a happy moment in it, yet Aaronovitch's generosity, good humour and understanding make it compelling.A book, I suppose, about fidelity. Very much recommended.
Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists