Sunday, 11 November 2018



“…what a time we shall have when it’s all over.”

I have a photo: lips ajar, a gap
between his front teeth, a long young face stares
from a spotted mount, half shadowed, and there’s
the slightest hint of pride - or is it humour,
sardonic, at the uselessness of all this,
a sad callow wisdom, prior to the end.

Late one night, November 2014,
my son and I went to see the poppies.
They bled through the cracks in the Reigate stone,
flooded the moat, the fields. Bloody Tower.
We all become history eventually
as bricks or pebbles, glass memorials.

We wondered which bloom might stand for
G.E. Nunns, Rifleman, age 20,
died first of September, 1918,
a Sunday ‘of unprecedented dryness’
during a war remembered for its mud:
My grandmother’s little brother.

We’d visited Queant Road cemetery
in September the previous year. 
Smallish, surrounded on all sides by flat
communal fields below occasional clouds.
Lavender lined the low front wall, bees
and butterflies littered the air with life.

We sought the gravestone. Found it. Stood. Read.
Why, ok, but how?  We don’t, cannot, know.
Where?  Best guess the second battle of Bapaume.
The Allies’ One Hundred Days offensive.
Eight dark yews stood like sentries, behind us.

Hard as a parent to see the heroics
in the warrior’s mortality. My son
and I lean upon the wall, looking down,
remembering one we never knew.
It is the early hours.  Shouts prick the night.
There’s laughter somewhere, and so it goes.

Wynn Wheldon

Sunday, 4 November 2018


Lincoln - astounding cathedral. Sits at the end of a street imaginatively named 'Steep Hill'. Britten's War Requiem was being rehearsed. Members of Sad Boys Club listened in for a bit. Then Sad Boys Club did their own bit of performing. A fan of top punk outfit Idles listened in for a few numbers (he even swayed gently). A grand day out. Maccy D at Peterborough service station, around 11.30 (no photos I'm afraid).

Thursday, 1 November 2018


Howard Jacobson is right about so many things

Read notes on gallery walls and you wish you'd never been born. Everything so neat and understood. Every mystery solved. every inconsistency ironed over. The age, the man: these the ideas in the air, those the painter's gifts, now behold them hand in hand. And all in that icy academician prose, mirthless, well schooled and well behaved, rendering precise that which was once tumultuous.

from 'The Twentieth Century? Tosh', in Whatever it is, i don't like it

Monday, 22 October 2018


Odiham castle, Hampshire

Hampstead cemetery, Fortune Green

Torquay, Devon

Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset

Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset

Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset

Whichford, Warwickshire

Whichford, Warwickshire

Whichford, Warwickshire

Whichford, Warwickshire

Thursday, 20 September 2018


Self in extasies at what my dear friend Stephen Graham, with the aid of merry musicos, has done to my decidedly questionable lyrics.
All the work, all the glory, is his.  Brilliant. 
Oxford Tavern, Kentish Town, 16 September, 2018


Jonathan Swift

Written in mdcxcix.

NOT to marry a young woman.
Not to keep young company, unless they desire it.
Not to be peevish, or morose, or suspicious.
Not to scorn present ways, or wits, or fashions, or men, or war, &c.
Not to be fond of children.
Not to tell the same story over and over to the same people.
Not to be covetous.
Not to neglect decency or cleanliness, for fear of falling into nastiness.
Not to be over severe with young people, but give allowances for their youthful follies and weaknesses.
Not to be influenced by, or give ear to, knavish tattling servants, or others.
Not to be too free of advice, nor trouble any but those who desire it.
To desire some good friends to inform me which of these resolutions I break or neglect, and wherein; and reform accordingly.
Not to talk much, nor of myself.
Not to boast of my former beauty, or strength, or favour with ladies, &c.
Not to hearken to flatteries, nor conceive I can be beloved by a young woman; et eos qui hæreditatem captant, odisse ac vitare*.
Not to be positive or opinionative.
Not to set up for observing all these rules, for fear I should observe none.

* and to detest and avoid those [young women] who are chasing after an inheritance

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


What's being happy? Well, yesterday I was happy three or four times. First I was happy when I learned that Cook had got his hundred. Then I was happy that This Feeling's track of the day was SBC's 'Sleepyhead'. In the afternoon my knee jerked with pleasure when i found out that Carpenter's coffee house in Covent Garden was 'The Finish' (scholars of eighteenth century London will understand). Finally, I was happy watching Cook get his hundred on the Sky highlights show. I enjoyed a couple of Thomas Fudge Florentines, but I'm not sure that counts.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

MAY 1940

Just finished SIX MINUTES IN MAY: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister'  by Nicholas Shakespeare.  Splendid prequel to John Lukacs' SIX DAYS IN LONDON, MAY 1940'.   Civilized politics at its most ruthless.

My Dad was 24 on the 7 May, 1940.  And we think we live in grim times.

Friday, 17 August 2018


They who have known what the daily supply, the daily toil, the daily difficulty, the hourly danger, and the incessant tumult of a morning paper is, can alone know that chaos of the brain in which a man lives who has all this to undergo. Terror walks before him— fatigue bears him down—libels encompass him, and distraction attacks him on every side. He must be a literary man, and a commercial man; he must be a political man, and a theatrical man; and must run through all the changes from a pantomime to a prime minister. What every man is pursuing, he must be engaged in; and from the very nature and "front of his offence," he must be acquainted with all the wants, the weaknesses, and wickedness, from one end of London to the other. 

from 'Sporting Anecdotes' by Pierce Egan, 1807

Monday, 30 July 2018



They haven’t performed for a few weeks.  Planned holidays have been taken, so it is perhaps good to be back together and ready to play.

We leave London in two cars, around 5.00 pm for a soundcheck at 6.00.  Keys have been accidentally locked into the boot.  The culprit – usually the band’s rock-steady Sergeant-Major – blames jetlag.  His girlfriend lives in San Francisco.  So rock and roll. 

It isn’t a major hold up.  The M1 is relatively clear, then we crawl into St Albans, to a pub called The Horn, on Alma Road.  The headline band – a local outfit - soundchecks (they’ve come in an aunt’s large-booted Mercedes).  Then the boys. 

I’m wandering around St Albans thinking about food and drink.  Finally I settle on a £3 Tesco meal deal.  I’ve had a tooth filled in the morning, so I want something not too challenging.  Ham and mustard, packet of ready salted and a peach tea. Kit Kat for pudding.  I eat it sitting on a rather grand bench commemorating the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta.

I suppose I should have visited the cathedral, but I’ve been before.  I head back to The Horn, keep away from the band meeting going on at one table, and apply myself to a regular Coke (bottled) and Sudoku.  Behind me, in the rear of the building, support bands play, obviously local, with their young mates claquing like billy-o.  Nothing that sounds unusual.  Desultory drumming and a bit of screaming.

So then the time comes.  I move next door. I’m not paying £7.00 and nobody seems to want to ask me to (the invisibility of age), so I stand with a pint of water at the back of the black room and watch the boys set up.  A family friend shows.  I chat with her. She has brought her mum, who sometimes comes to see covers bands. The room has emptied until finally there is a small core of four or five people, friends of our guitarist.  It isn’t unusual to play to nobody, or at least very few.  My son, the singer, rather enjoys these out of town shows where nobody knows who you are.

They open with a song, their new single.  My son is clearly prepared to enjoy himself and give it all tonight.  He pirouettes and bends and shimmers, a kind of angry wraith.  He wears the red trousers of one his mother’s suits and one of her black silk shirts. Between numbers he raises his chin and pushes back his hair, or takes on water, turns his back on the crowd.  The room gradually fills, not to bursting, but to a degree to which it can be a manipulated thing, and my son begins to work on his audience, eyeballing, and pointing, and drawing in.  His energy is directed towards persuasion; this is theatre.  But it isn’t pretend.  He leaves himself, everything, on the stage, seeming to turn himself inside out.  Sweat and eyeliner make a mess of his face.  The band, tight as a drumskin, likewise tear into their beautifully constructed songs, big songs, songs too big for this small dark backroom of a pub, but this is what they must settle for, for the moment.  Their time will surely come.  Wembley will have to wait.

They finish, as always, on an old, dark song from their earlier manifestation, a song in a minor key, but with enormous swaying power, that addresses some of the difficulty of adolescence. ‘Know’ it is called and it explodes into a storm of motion and guitar crashing at its end, the band moving as one animal.  It ends neither in a whimper not a bang, but in white sound, as the players leave the stage.

Afterwards, the dervish is put away and my son converses happily, sane as you like.  It is hard to become a rock star, especially in an age when the rock star has been proclaimed dead.  So perhaps my son’s attempt will end in a magnificent failure.  I hope not because as much energy and commitment has been poured into his making of music as is put in by determined apprentice footballers or young philosophers.  My pride is unshakeable.  I remain almost disbelieving that a son of mine can do this stuff.  I have other sons who also do other unbelievable things, but tonight this is my rock star son’s night, and my cup runneth over.

We roll into our beds around 3.00 am.  Rock and roll.