Sunday, 22 May 2016

Kicking the Bar and Amazon

Should anyone reading this here note have actually read and enjoyed the whole or even part of my book 'Kicking the Bar', I'd be very grateful for an Amazon comment from you.  Here's the link:

Thank you!


Me on Daniel Mendoza in Commentary Magazine:


Back from a short break in Languedoc, the region of Aude to be precise.  To be even more precise, the village of Sougrainge.  And to be precise to the point of useful information: Auberge Ecluse au Soleil. Modest almost to Spartan, but comfortable, clean, and with no choice on the menu.  Plus a tennis court!

This was the land, in the 12th century, of the Cathars, heretics who thought that God was bad and that death would deliver them back to the Good God.  Toulouse was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe, and with wealth came tolerance.  Catholics and Cathars had little beef with one another. There were Jews in government office.

The Pope was horrified, and so began the Albigensian Crusade, to wrest Languedoc back into the arms of Rome.  Northern France fell first upon Beziers.  Crusader-in-Chief Arnauld-Amaury was asked how heretics in the town could be distinguished from Catholics: "Kill them all.  God will recognise his own."  Everyone was killed and the city razed to the ground.

'The lord of Beziers, Raymond Roger of Trenceval, with typical Languedoc grace had the night before escorted the entire Jewish population of Beziers to safety, believing they alone had anything to fear from Christian marauders.' (This quote, as is the little information above, is from the Orange Blossom Special on the Albigensian Heresy).

The long and the short is that the rather gentle, unassertive heresy of the Cathars was wiped out.  Statues of the Virgin Mary are to be found in every nook and cranny.  There are also plenty of hippies, so perhaps a Cathar spirit remains -  they were, after all, against war, against eating meat, and against marriage. What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

Northern invaders resting after having laid siege to steak hache and frites. All are fathers, and have therefore indulged in procreational sex, rather frowned upon by Top Cathars, who regarded masturbation and sodomy as altogether purer forms of sexual activity.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Kicking the Bar launch party

A good time was had by all, I think.  Well by me, at any rate, once I'd got my speech done.  A few guests missed, but enough to be hugging continuously.  I'm terrifically grateful to all who came, most of whom had contributed serious funds towards the publication of the book.  Anyway, here are a few choice pics.

Self, David Attenborough

Jacob Wheldon

Humphrey Burton

Elinor Davies
Chris Davies, Kit Line, Teresa Graham

Self, Paul Fox

Self, DNM, David Attenborough

Self, DNM, David Attenborough
Susan Attenborough, David Attenborough, Self

Peter Palumbo, Melvyn Bragg, Self

Nat Wheldon Posner
Adam Bullmore, Matthew Hooberman

Leslie Megahey

Megan Wheldon

Wynn Rees, John Podhoretz, Lindsay Posner

Sian Wheldon, Melvyn Bragg, David Attenborough, Alan Yentob, Susan Attenborough

Maud Wheldon Posner, Nat Wheldon Posner

Maud and Nat

Bragg, Wheldon, Attenborough

Jacob Wheldon, John Podhoretz

Melvyn Bragg, Sian Wheldon

Lindsay Posner, Chris Davies

Karen Falkner

Annabel Moorsom, Mitch Herbert

Helena Line

Kit Line, Mike Fairbairn, Patrick Macaskie

Stephen Graham, Jacob Wheldon

Jacob Wheldon, Self, Brian, Alex Moghissi, Stephen Graham

DNM,  Jacob Wheldon

Self, Jacob 

Friday, 6 May 2016

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Good Grief: A Start

Image by Molly Line
Words by Wynn Wheldon


A dream of blossoming as a lion
Vivified stone, greeting each new season
With aplomb, with divine resignation

Maybe not the kind of dream we suckle on
When we dream with chin sunk on knuckles
But fanciful beyond mere chucklesome.

One should not steal another’s reverie
Interloping without care, sleeplessly
But because there is always the sky

Which is an infinity of the new
A mess of greys, a glass full of blue
I am pleased to lease what is not my due

Sunday, 24 April 2016


Intrepidly, I set off for 'The Complete Walk' yesterday morning.  This was the installation of 37 large screens beading the South Bank from Westminster to Tower Bridge, each showing a 10 or 15 minute clip of highlights from one of Shakespeare's plays: Number 5, for example was Titus Andronicus.  I stood to watch, with a good crowd, hearing little as the trains trundled across Hungerford bridge above us, but remembering just how extremely unpleasant a play it is.  The worst pie in London...

The South Bank was, as the young so vividly put it, rammed.  This is London's promenade, and it is full of variety and pleasure: galleries, theatres, eateries, markets, battleships, malls, sandcastles, pleasure boats, barges, bridges, musicians, mimes, pleasure gardens, aquariums, prisons, railway stations, and a big wheel... 

Several of the screens appeared to have malfunctioned.  I put this down to the Arctic breeze, which was very nearly the cause of my own malfunctioning as the blood in my uncovered head slowly froze as I made my way eastwards.

Most, though, hadn't, and there were some splendid goes.  Simon Russell Beale did Timon very well.  Here's part of his speech:

Who seeks for better of thee, sauce his palate 
With thy most operant poison! What is here? 
Gold? yellow, glittering, precious gold? No, gods, 
I am no idle votarist: roots, you clear heavens! 
Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair, 
Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant. 
Ha, you gods! why this? what this, you gods? Why, this 
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides, 
Pluck stout men's pillows from below their heads: 
This yellow slave 
Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed, 
Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves 
And give them title, knee and approbation 
With senators on the bench: this is it 
That makes the wappen'd widow wed again; 
She, whom the spital-house and ulcerous sores 
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices 
To the April day again. Come, damned earth, 
Thou common whore of mankind, that put'st odds 
Among the route of nations, I will make thee 
Do thy right nature. 

Ah, spital houses and ulcerous sores!  Not to mention wappen'd widows!  Just the job. All very Now, eh? There was a big crowd for Lear, contending with a clamorous Antony and Cleopatra, near London Bridge.  The former had a better backdrop though:  

The Tower of London is behind the pergola. You can just see the spikes of the White Tower.  Macbeth was facing the city of London, from Hays Wharf.  I don't think that signified anything. Nothing, in fact. Walkie-Talkie, Cheese-grater and Gherkin all present.

Most unlikely structures however were the sandcastles and scenes being constructed on the beach: 

A good five or six mile walk there and back.  I had planned on a burger at Borough Market, but if the riverside was rammed, the Market was stuffed almost to the point of immobility.  I got stuck behind someone talking at length about his sperm count, and decided that i wasn't that hungry after all.

A last word, on the Bankside Gallery, which was showing the annual exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society.  It was the last day.  I'm very glad I popped in, because here were paintings full of engagement, in every conceivable style, from extreme realism to abstraction.  I liked a great many of them.  After the dry, humourlessly facetious offerings in the Tate Modern's 'Art and Media' rooms, (even the Sonia Delauney seemed a bit tired and academic) this was refreshing.  I grow old, I grow old...


...seems to be thumping onto mats, though i think D signed for hers.  I have yet to receive mine.

I find that thinking too much about certain passages, omissions, inclusions, infelicities of style makes me feel queasy.  I imagine the ways in which it will disappoint, infuriate and bore.  Nevertheless there ARE good things - mostly Dad's letters.  Well worth reading just for those. Must say that it is very well produced: handsome with a nice big text.  Shame the photos lose their sharpness, but there we are, at least they are there.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Contents of the Larder of the Bush Tavern, Bristol on Christmas-Day last [1788]

One turtle 75lb. British turtle, giblet soup, pea soup, gravy soup, 15 cod, 1 new salmon, 5 turbots, 28 soles, 2 brills, 7 plaice, 144 herrings, sprats, 27 cels. salt fish, venison 3 does, 7 grouse, 11 pheasants, 36 partridges 47 hares, 88 wild ducks, 52 teal, 1 curlew, 27 widgeon, 7 sea pheasants, 11 plovers, 7 wild turkies, 48 woodcocks, 3 snipcs, 2 galenas, 2 pea-hens, 13 pidgeons, 122 larks, 12 stares, 48 small birds, 4 ducklings, 27 turkies, 14 capons, 32 chicken, 3 ducks, 2 geese, 4 rabbits, 1 pig, 2 pork-griskins, veal burrs, 10 hogs-puddings, eggs, tripe, cow heel, Maintcnon chops, Scotch collops, harricoed mutton, veal cutlets, rump steaks, mutton chops, pork chops, stewed and scollop’d oystcrs, 2 house lambs, 5 legs 1 loin veal, 7 rumps 1 sirloin 5 ribs beef, 14 haunches 2 legs 2 necks 2 chines mutton, pork 4 loins. -  COLD. Baron of beef, roasted, 3 cwt. 21lb. of beef, 576 minced pics, 11 tans, 204 jellies, 400 cray-fifh, 24 lobsters, 2 pickled salmons, 88 barrels of Pyfleet and Colchester oysters, pickled oysters, sturgeon.

Reading Mercury - Monday 28 January 1788

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Cal in Bangor

Cal at the entrance to 'Wheldon', at Bangor University, named for his great grandfather, Sir Wynn, who was Registrar between the wars.  Or possibly his great-great grandfather, Thomas Jones Wheldon, one of the founders of the University College of North Wales (as BU was known until pretty darn recently, like about the day before yesterday).

Sunday, 3 April 2016

A Line from Joyce

"But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires".
from 'Araby'

Thursday, 31 March 2016

The War Game

Interesting BBC post about Peter Watkins and Dad.

Richard Cawston, who succeeded Dad as Head of Documentaries compared Watkins to Mozart.  My Mum used to say that Watkins 'was in love with violence'.