Saturday, 2 September 2017

An End of Summer Hummer


The fearless Midge Decter on boys (and girls):

Anyone who has ever watched little boys at play knows that whatever they are up to, for good or ill, their hearts are always on their sleeves. Little girls acquire wiles with practically their first step. They flirt, they pout, they manipulate. Watch a group of them at play, and what will be going on beneath their games is an instinctive feel for tactics and strategy worthy of the world’s most practiced diplomats. Boys, by contrast, have no wiles. As the years go on, life will teach them not to cry when they want to, and to cover up their fear. But little boys almost never dissemble or manipulate;  even their lies are transparent. Nor, as a rule, do they romanticize themselves, which is perhaps why millions upon millions of them could be sent into combat without becoming murderers.

Sunday, 13 August 2017


Self and wife, and sister Sian and her husband Kit have spent a week in Edinburgh as guests of the tremendously genial and accommodating Drs Graham and Smith, Stephen and Teresa, who take an enormous and handsome apartment (it isn't really a flat) in Stockbridge every year.

New York, Madrid, Naples, Venice, Parma, Bangor (Gwynedd) - names that cropped up as we tried to describe Edinburgh to each other.  An extraordinary city. Around each corner something to wonder at - the spire count puts Oxford to shame. In the National Gallery of Modern Art there is an installation by Nathan Coley, which features cardboard models of the 286 places of worship in the Edinburgh Yellow Pages.

And what colour is this city?  Biscuit?  Nope. Bath is biscuit.  Grey?  Nope.  Aberdeen is grey.  There is a dusting of charcoal darkness over nearly everything.  Mushroom perhaps.  Portobello mushroom?  Well, maybe.  New York is evoked in the wide streets, Naples in the high tenements, Bangor in the undulations - and associated with this, counter-intuitively perhaps, Venice in the sense of the city's impossibility.  It seems to have layers upon layers.  There is magic.  There is Hogwarts (JKR wrote HP in The Elephant Cafe on the George Bridge street).  There is occasionally the sense of being on an island, and again this suggests Manhattan.  There are wide streets that cross the grand boulevards, and they lead the eye from the sea - the Firth of Forth - to the mountains (the Cairngorms?).

We were there to support Sian and Kit's daughter, niece Helena, who was appearing in 'Jimmyville' and who designed the set for 'The Other Half Lives' (much of which got bogged down in the Meadows and was never seen again...).  Helena was excellent as a flirty acolyte of a dodgy southern preacher.

We were also there to encourage Dr Graham's return to the Fringe as a producer, after a quarter of a century (the last time he was responsible for John Logan's 'Hauptmann', which won a Fringe First). This time he was co-producing Christopher Hunter's dramatic interpretation of Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis'. It was described in the Observer as "finely crafted and movingly delivered", and so it was.  After sparseish audiences in week one, word has spread of its excellence.  Five star stuff.  If you're reading this and in Edinburgh - go!

We ate exceedingly well, at Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge, at Contini in George Street, at Copper Blossom (also Geroge Street), plus some goodish street food.  We had elegant tea-drawing timing devices at Eteaket.

What did we see?  We saw 13 or 14 shows of one kind and another.  Outstanding was Barry McGovern in 'Krapp's Last Tape', part of the International Festival.  Everything else was Fringe stuff: Niv Petel was extraordinary  in 'Knock Knock'; Daniel Cainer was funny and moving in 'More Gefilte Fish'; Matt Forde does an excellent Trump; Tom Stade was very funny indeed despite an obnoxious heckler.  Choir of Man was very good fun. although our host Dr Graham found it 'generic' and compared it to an X Factor boy band.  About many things he is acute, but - well, the rest of us enjoyed it.

Apart from an occasional light sprinkle of rain,, we had wonderful weather, cloud-scuddingly blue skies, and actual heat while London soaked.

Edinburgh is, in many ways, much grander than London, more obviously a capital city.  Statues of David Hume and Adam Smith remind you that this is one of the great intellectual homes of European civilization.  This was my third visit.  I hope for more.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Marthe John

Wynn Wheldon
Has anyone seen this woman? Stolen from Hampstead cemetery. Found and returned to Golders Green. Stolen again. Not found.
Wynn Wheldon She was designed and erected by Goscombe John, a sculptor, in memory of his wife Marthe.
He was born in Canton, Cardiff[1] and as a youth assisted his father, Thomas John, a wood carver, in the…


The battle of Pilckem Ridge was the first attack of the Third Battle of Ypres, now known more familiarly as Passchendale.  The Officer in Command of the 14th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, one of the units involved, was Captain Wynn Wheldon, my grandfather.

Monday, 3 July 2017

KNOW ONE: Me reading my poems

These poems were the result of a project, KNOW ONE, undertaken by my bad self and visual artists Sirpa Pajunen Moghissi and Sue Spaull.  We visited each of London's 'magnificent seven' Victorian cemeteries, and chose a single subject from each.  A little research followed, and then the poems and accompanying art works.  All are acts of remembrance, and stand for all the forgotten.  It isn't Thomas Gray, but it is meant in a similar spirit. The pictures can be seen here and here:

Why it starts four minutes in beats me.  Certainly my own cackhandedness.  Please rewind, as 'twere.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

NZ 21 Lions 24

Rain.  And on the pitch thunder and lightning.  Godawful conditions, but what a tremendous struggle this was.  Not great rugby, but great sport.  I thought AWJ was immense, and made way for Lawes at just the right moment.  Itoje grows into himself.  Warbs and Faletau and O'Brien did what needed to be done.  Furlong's a nugget.  George made that Murray try. Sexton didn't break in two.  Farrell kicked that pen.  It was an 11 man game, so actually the absence of Sonny Bill was not as damaging to the ABs as it might have been in better conditions.  Barrett's misses were godsends, but kicking from the hand he was terrific.  To stop them scoring a try was something special  - the defence in that last quarter was something to behold.  I'd keep the same team for next week, but perhaps play Nowell instead of Daly.  He adds a little unexpectedness.  My knuckles are still sore as hell from punching the ceiling when Faletau scored.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Charlotte Mew

I've often tried to find the grave of Charlotte Mew, who is buried in Hampstead cemetery, where I walk my dog every day.  I have finally found her. She was lying down (her tombstone has collapsed).  Her life was a sad one.  Many of her poems are about death..  She wrote often from a masculine point of view, but her style is entirely her own.   Go here for full gen.

So, anyway, I've written a poem to mark the occasion.  Thought I might post it.  I write very few poems at the moment, so...


So with a smile he overstepped the grave

I’ve been looking for you, Charlotte Mew,
For quite a while, and now I’ve found you
I’ll return with a book one bright day
And, being dead, you’ll not turn away.

I’ve stepped over you a dozen times
Map marked for an outstanding stone.
Wasn’t ready for collapse, the lone
Prone unmarker among upright lines.

I shall stand above you in the rain
And I’ll watch your dull limestone sheening
I shall stand above you in the sun
While the damned parakeets are keening,
Now I’ve found you, Charlotte Mew.

Wynn Wheldon

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Dickens and Thackeray

'It is usual to compare Dickens with Thackeray, which is like comparing the grape with the gooseberry; there are obvious points of resemblance, and the gooseberry has some superior qualities of its own; but you cannOt make red wine of it.' 

Friday, 2 June 2017


Is it silly of me to wonder whether, given the people who surround him - Milne (East Germany the workers' paradise), Murray (no! North Korea the workers' paradise) - and his own skewed idea of what is right, Corbyn is likely to share state secrets with his pals' pals in Moscow, Pyongyang, Gaza, Caracas, etc..? Be interesting to know quite how NATO would feel about his PM-ship, and I daresay the EU would be delighted that the UK was on its way out. 

So yes, I admit, I would rather have May, who has proved herself an utter flop, than Corbyn, if only because she is not him. I don't think she is actually dangerous. I know he is.  I don't think domestic politics will be that much different, one way or another: we're heading for a fall. In the (incredibly) still unlikely event of the Dear Leader becoming PM, those who fear the worst will find it not so bad, and those poor dear souls who think JC is the Messiah will be sadly disappointed. At least there'd be a proper opposition. Truth is, Corbyn's just another politician. I'll vote Liberal Democrat because it is the only party to have an agenda at least partly based on reason. I voted to Remain. I still vote to Remain, and curses on those who don't (most of you, it would seem, especially the young, who were so ready to blame the old for Brexit - eat yourselves children).

Saturday, 27 May 2017


I'll be supporting Sue Whitmore reading from her new collection, along with Chrys Salt,  at the Torriano Meeting House on Sunday (28th May)

Address: 99 Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town, London NW5 2RX
Directions: From Kentish Town tube station walk up Leighton Road
and turn left onto Torriano Avenue. 
Phone for enquiries: 0207 267 2751 / 0207 482 0044 (Susan).

Thursday, 25 May 2017

CULTURE, INNIT: Hockney, Giacometti, Tillmans and Egan

An indulgent day yesterday.  Started at Tate Britain, with a second look at Hockney.  Helped lift the despond that had fallen on us all the previous day.  Is there a painter more full of life than Hockney, of curiosity, of genuine thrill in the observed world?  Then a stroll through one or two of the regular galleries.  Old friends - 'Hope' by Watts (not how Hockney would paint the subject) - and new (didn't take names).

Then, by boat, to Tate Modern.  How much more fun this would have been had it not been an enclosed catamaran.  If the authorities want people to use the river more, then health and safety have to be relaxed and people given some responsibility for themselves.  Oh well.  It was novel at least.

Tate Modern: Giacometti.  Obviously lots of very thin, very knobbly people (impossible to avoid the idea that he was rather compulsive in this) but also humour.  They were teeny-weeny-winy and VERY VERY TALL, with plenty in-between.  Put me in mind of Samuel Beckett.  Mt favourite room was actually the second, which was full of rather delicate surrealist sculptures in various mediums, and also contained a piece entitled 'Disagreeable Object' (very Beckett). The drawings and paintings must have been known by Francis Bacon.

Went to the members Bar for a lemonade.  For some insane reason their outside tables are made of metal and perfect for convecting heat (or, I imagine, cold).  I bravely sat with the Shard before me and read my book, Jennifer Egan's 'The Invisible Circus'. and wrote a postcard to my granddaughter (Giacometti's rather wonderful dog).

Then I tried the Wolfgang Tillmans. Underwhelming - though perhaps it wasn't fair on the chap asking him to follow Hockney and Giacometti. The difference between the exceptional and the quotidian.

Back home then, and out to a friend's for the football and a home-cooked Indian.  Perfect day.  I'm a lucky sod.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017


Apparently, the great canvas that I, er, devised, for the forthcoming KNOW ONE exhibition, has been vandalised and lost to posterity.  Well, it has been painted over at any rate.  Because I was foolishly rather proud of it, I here present the only known photograph of said piece, in all its glory.  The canvas is about 6 ft x 6 ft.

Sunday, 7 May 2017


Reposting, because 'The Devil's Tattoo' is exceptional.  The link takes you to my review -

Details as to how to order are here:

Wynn Rees, I think you'd especially enjoy this.