Saturday, 9 June 2018

SBC in Manc

Some kind words on the recent Manchester gig, from the people at When the Horn Blows:

As the low capacity venue started to fill up, Sad Boys Club took to the stage, which soon proved to be way too small for the five-piece. 

The band only had a twenty-minute set, but owned the stage. The singer had a certain likeness to Robert Smith and Matt Healy, with their tracks even sounding like a mix of The Cure and The 1975. Obvious influences aside, the eccentric dance moves were far too bold for this small stage. 

Plus some nice pics:

Wednesday, 30 May 2018


by Marilynne Robinson, from the Preface to her book of essays, 'What Are We Doing Here?'

Monday, 21 May 2018


231 years ago, the great Jewish boxer Daniel Mendoza married his cousin Esther (22 May, 1787).  Sadly there is no picture of Esther, but here's Daniel.


Monday, 14 May 2018

Elizabeth Jerichau Baumann

I was very much taken with this painting by the Danish artist Elizabeth Jerichau Baumann, at the SMK in Copenhagen. It is called 'An Egyptian Pottery Seller Near Gizeh' and dates from 1876-1878. Baumann was born in Warsaw, met her husband in Rome and lived in Copenhagen from 1849 onwards. She received something of a cold shoulder from the Danish art establishment but was much appreciated in France. Queen Victoria expressed an interest and was rewarded with a painting of Hans Christian Anderson reading to the artist's children. In the 1860s and 70s Baumann travelled in the Ottoman empire, and managed to get access to many harems. The paintings that resulted were considered rather risque for the time. And there is certainly an erotic power to this picture: the pose, the marvellous suggestion of flesh beneath the cool, light texture of the woman's frock, the ruggyness of the carpet on the right (beneath her left elbow), the shadowed imperious yet inviting stare, the heat. It is interesting to find that the other emphatically erotic work in this collection of Danish art is a sculpture by Baumann's husband Jens, of two female bathers.

Saturday, 28 April 2018


Taking only a mere five and a half hours to get tthere from Hornsey, I took the gear for the up and coming supergroup, SAD BOYS CLUB, for their gig at the prestigious 'Also Known As' venue in the heart of the bustling metropolis known as Banbury.  The band was great.  

I liied the look of Banbury. Hitherto I had known it only for its station car parks.

Today I came across this in The New Criterion: 

The second [of Anthony Burgess's novels], The Worm and the Ring, derived from Burgess’s postwar employment as a schoolteacher in Banbury, Oxfordshire. It appeared in 1961, only to disappear because the Mayor of Banbury, recognizing herself in the character of the school secretary, sued Burgess for libel. The Banbury interlude also generated a play, The Eve of St. Venus, which Burgess was to recycle into a novella in 1964.

Also, check out the latin inscription on the entableture:

So there we go.  Banbury.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

William James McCutcheon 'Never smoke your own sweat'.

"The loyalest and most devotest [sic] soldier I ever saw, and a very great personal loss"  HPW to his father, April 1945

Removing a packet of cigarettes from my father on a hot day: 
"Sor! Never smoke your own sweat"

Monday, 12 March 2018


Cool rockin' and rollin' photo from the Nambucca gig t'other night:

Tom H. Pedro, Jacob, Tom M., Jake (pic by Jeff Moh)

Thursday, 8 March 2018


On at 8.30, should anyone reading this be inclined.  Playing Barfly as was (Camden Assembly) on 14 March, but i believe that is sold out.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018



So splendidly bleak, this St David’s Day.
A cold corpse of a day, the blood drained
from its veins, the cemetery’s rare lush shades
reduced to weak tints of green, brown, grey.

The air’s as empty as the white duvet’d plots
and I wonder, where are the parakeets
that love to flock screeching across the dead.
They’re absent as daffs.  Perhaps drawing lots.

Lonely headstones crook proud of iron ground.
Heavy-winged angels seem to grieve again.
In the snow-silence the present dominates.
There is no then or when, but only now.

Snow obliterates borders, ways. So I plant
my feet where I wouldn’t, oblivious
of foul or infringement.  This is all one place.
We all come: you and I and Dewi Sant.

Wynn Wheldon

Monday, 5 March 2018

FAUN and FAWN - There's a big difference, although both hoofed

FAWN A young fallow deer, a buck or doe of the first year

FAUN One of a class of rural deities; at first represented
like men with horns and the tail of a goat,
afterwards with goats' legs like the Satyrs,
to whom they were assimilated in lustful character.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Girls of Slender Means

"...long ago in 1945."  The last words of Muriel Spark's acute, wicked novel The Girls of Slender Means, published in 1963, eighteen years after the period in which the book is set.  It is as though Spark knew this book would be read long after it was written (18 years ago is, of course, just yesterday for those of us approaching 60). 

Monday, 19 February 2018


Jazz – what do I know? I occasionally watch Oscar Peterson on You Tube. I have seen and heard the astonishing Dorian Ford play the entire Keith Jarrett Koln Concerto. I recognise ‘Take Five’. I might just be able to tell the difference between Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. I know that Louis Armstrong was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. Sting has had Brandon Marsalis in his band - I think. Sometimes Van Morrison sounds a bit jazzy; sometimes Steely Dan. You see? Anyone who knows jazz will be shivering with despair at the sheer vulgarity.
Tonight I caught a proper jazz gig. It was at the Hampstead Lounge & Jazz Club in New End, and the outfit playing was the Will Arnold-Forster Trio. That means Will on guitar, Matt Horne on drums, and Conor Chaplin on double bass. Will bends over his guitar like Glenn Gould over a keyboard, making it clear that hands and fingers are simply the tools of whatever it is that makes music in the head, or brings it from the heart. Chaplin treats his instrument as though it is a monster in need of taming. Horne appears to have limbs each under individual control. They are tight, very tight, but, of course, this being jazz, they are also wonderfully loose. In the second set a saxophonist whose name escaped me joins, and suddenly it is a quartet, and boy that boy can blow.
I don’t recognise any of the tunes they play, and I’ve no real idea of how they decide to play the notes and chords they do, but it all seems to work. It is smooth but surprising. What is going to happen next? Perhaps they know. Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps that’s half the fun.
The audience is interesting. Several earnest, intelligent-looking young men seem to have walked in from the 1950s. They all look like Lucky Jim. They clap politely – knowingly – at the end of each little solo, There are girlfriends and parents – the WAF Trio is young. I envy them. They are going to be playing this music all their lives. Is there a better occupation? No.
I saw my son’s band last week. They too are tight, good musicians. But the contrast couldn’t be greater. They play rock music. The experience is essentially theatrical. They put out. The jazz players pull in. The experience is essentially musical. I am given to sweeping generalisations. They are the only kind of generalisations worth making.
I’m sure there will be bigger venues, larger audiences, equally attentive, but this was just right for me – I felt a kind of privilege at being able to witness such skill and dedication, such enjoyably hard work, at such close quarters, like being privy to a conversation between unusually intelligent people.
Rock on, or whatever the equivalent is in jazzish.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

RIPE BANANAS by Douglas Dunn

A February poem, from Douglas Dunn's melancholy but enjoyable new collection, The Noise of a Fly (Faber)

Saturday, 27 January 2018


To Tate Modern this evening. Absolutely rammed with people drinking. Didn't feel right at all. So is it a pub now? On to the Red Star Over Russia show. No art to be found there, either. Plenty of propaganda posters. Felt distinctly uncomfortable. Someone has been hoarding all this. I daresay a show of Nazi propaganda prints is not far off: it is really not very different. Grim. And if you are going to show this stuff, find a museum that does history. Insofar as there is 'art', it is mostly of that communist kitsch kind with which owners like to deck out second rate restaurants.

...and another thing. The little brochure you are given as you go in to the exhibition tells us that "The German invasion of 1941 drew the USSR into the Second World War''. I'm sorry - what? On 17 September, 1939 the USSR invaded Poland. On 30 November the communists started trying to invade Finland. This was followed by Soviet annexations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of Romania. Pretty warlike if you ask me. All part of a pact the USSR had with Nazi Germany.

The Tate giving us alternative facts.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018


Very good to have a new collection by Douglas Dunn. These lines are from the poem 'The Nothing-But', from 'The Noise of a Fly'
To have kissed the lips of one who is dying
Is to have tasted silence, salt, and wilderness,
And touched the truth, the desert where there is no lying...


23 January
The Bridge Theatre
Nicholas Hytner, Director
Ben Whishaw (Brutus), David Morrissey (Mark Antony) Michelle Fairley (Cassius), David Calder (JC)
Shakespeare Club outing to JC at the new Bridge Theatre.

RM; "It wasn't for me"
RP: "I thought that was marvellous"
RW: "They were afraid of the intimacy"
NM: "You can't carve with guns"

Well, it starts brutally with a band playing Seven Nation Army rather (perhaps not inappropriately) badly but loudly (gig-loud).  This is for the benefit of the 'mob' (£15 promenade tickets) which gets frequently shifted about  through the course of the evening as different parts of the stage rise and descend, and bodies or military equipment are moved in and out. The production is more or less in the round, in, you will have gathered, modern costume.  The assassins have guns rather than knives (which are really not as 'intimate' as knives, and nor can they be said to 'carve').  The late war scenes are pretty well done: loud and unpleasant, with actors dashing around with guns (very Johnny 7) - but it does look nastily like a battlefield. 

 On the whole, I am for togas.  The audience is usually clever enough to make its own comparisons, draw its own conclusions.  We really don't need Trump jammed down our gullets.  

I thought the thing stuttered along until the assassination, at which point the pace picked up, specifically with David Morrissey's very good Lend Me Your Ears.  That sold me.  Ben Whishaw is a very good actor (FR however could not drive Paddington Bear from her mind), but he perhaps lacks that stolid, almost dim gravitas that I think Brutus needs  ("It was all a bit Chekov" RW remarked of his and Cassius' bivouac argument/make-up scene).  Michelle Fairley (Cassius) I thought was not quite sure whether she should be pretending to be a man or not.  What can be said is that I heard almost every word of this play, which is incredibly rare.  Whether this is to the credit of the performers or the superdooper uptodate acoustics of the Bridge, I don't know.  A bit of both, I daresay. 

 JC is a tricky play: one is never quite sure who it is about, and, prefiguring Psycho, the person you thought it was about gets killed in the middle.  Nonetheless, I expect that with time (it hasn't actually opened yet) this production will find a rhythm that will give it both the intimacy and the cohesion it somewhat lacked this evening.  I think if we average out the marks it  comes in at perhaps 6/10.  I'd give it a B+ myself and expect it to rise to an A- .  What began questionably ended enjoyably.

Finally, a word for Leaphia Darko as Portia, who spoke her small part beautifully.  I look forward to seeing more of her.

Saturday, 20 January 2018


"...that which is public is not necessarily popular, and opinion is not necessarily the same thing as sentiment..."
from John Lukacs, 'Five Days in May, London 1940'

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


My review in Commentary Magazine.


"She just knows humanity, one of the rarest things in the world" - Walter de la Mare on Charlotte Mew. One could say the same of Penelope Fitzgerald, in whose book 'Charlotte Mew and Her Friends', this is to be found. One the best biographies I have read: wise, kind, and sharp.