Monday, 23 August 2010

William Lamson

This is a perfect stress buster. It is called 'Emerge'. Other work by the artist William Lamson can be found at his website, here.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Mmm, well. not so much confusing, I thought, as confused. Still, quite enjoyable. Ariadne leads Leo through the dreamy labyrinth (though we never see these mazes other than in model form), he confronts the minotaur that is his own guilt (in the form of his dead wife) and returns home to his children (there is a dead father, but it isn't his, and Ariadne isn't abandoned on an Aegean island). There's a rather corny ending.

It is clear from the first that this is going to be a story about coming home, so actually, rather than Theseus, the real hero evoked is Odysseus, and Mal (the wife) is a sort of siren. (The name Mal in Hebrew means 'messenger of God' but in French means 'bad'. Clever ambiguity, eh? And 'Cobb' probably means something like 'home'.) Or perhaps a lotus eater. Can't quite remember. Ms Cotillard is certainly not cycloptic.

It seems to me that Christopher Nolan, the writer and director, has thrown together a cocktail of basic plots (quest, rebirth, voyage, killing the monster etc) hoping something coherent would come out at the end. Well, it is coherent in terms of plot, but I think its focus is fuzzy and it is curiously uninvolving. It isn't really much of a story. For that see TS3, still undoubtedly the film of the year for me.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Edinburgh Festival

Spent a weekend at the Festival, very convivially put up by my friends the Grahams, who have taken a flat there for the whole of August. Both days were spankingly blue and delightful. We did eight things. On saturday we 1) ate at La Garrule 2) saw Dan Topolski, 3) saw Andrew Lawrence, 4) saw Barbershopera in Apocalypse NO!. On Sunday we 1) ascended Arthur's Seat, 2) saw 'The Retreat' by Jenni Herzberg, 3) saw Little Feat and 4) Alan Cumming.

Of all these things the ascent of Arthur's Seat will, I am certain, prove the most memorable. Least enjoyable (but not unenjoyable) was Alan Cumming, who was a little bit too slick for my taste.

Little Feat were terrific.

Jenni's play means she is going to get better; by which I mean it is blindingly obvious that she knows what she is about. I don't think her play needed a gun in it. It was strong enough without.

I laughed like a drain through Barbershopera.

At La Garrule I had something braised which was delicious.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Destry Rides Again

I'm not sure it gets better than this. Cowboys, bad guy, dramatic tension, irony, hamming, slapstick, hubris, James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich and the best catfight in cinema history. I'd forgotten how very good this film is. I saw it years ago and always remembered it. It never gets shown on TV. My son recently started drinking milk in vast quantities and I told him about Destry's partiality for the cow juice and thought he'd enjoy the movie. And he did. As did I. It is even better than i remembered it.

Glories of the Great Book Cull 4

"The first religious experience that I can remember is getting under the nursery table to pray that the dancing mistress might be dead before we got to the Dancing Class."
Gwen Raverat, Period Piece, 1952

Hope and Glory

Another snippet from the Great Book Cull:
"Much of life consists in the gradual taming of the grandiloquent hopes and fantasies of infancy." Ernest Jones, Free Associations

This is horribly true, although some of us are less good at taming than others, and remain somewhat infantile. I still harbour hopes (albethey faint) for some kind of glory. Vanitas, vanitatis...

Thursday, 5 August 2010


More from the Great Book Cull. Fairly self-explanatory. Not a great poem, more a fancy note to myself.


Lionel Abel Smith’s Holiday Task
1909: Oliver Cromwell
by Frederic Harrison, Macmillan,
First edition June 1888.
A boy, I imagine, but googling find
he was perhaps Brigadier General
and so very much up to the challenge.

April – so the Easter holiday then.
We mustn’t start imagining beaches
and comical striped swimming togs
but rather a rectory somewhere
in Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire or Berks
and a willow tree swinging gently.

Do you wonder whether he achieved it
this singularly unrelaxing brief?
He did: On page 1 we find underlined
Knights of Hinchinbrook and on page 6
marginalia: “rather like Napoleon’s
father & mother”; on 221
“They make a wilderness and call it peace”
underscored, which makes me think there may be
something to be said for Brigadier Generals.

Essence of Beckett

"What but an imperfect sense of humour could have made such a mess of chaos. In the beginning was the pun. And so on."

from MURPHY by Samuel Beckett, Picador edition 1973, page 41

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dedication of On Liberty

I have to dispose of well over half my books. As I riffle through them in desperate search for things I do not need (hah! reason not the need!)I come across stuff, such as this, which the more learned among you will of course know, but I have just read for the first time with amazement and pleasure. It is moving because it manages to marry the scholar's objectivity with a widower's extreme tenderness. It is the dedication at the beginning of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. The essay was published in 1859.

"TO the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in part the author, of all that is best in my writings- the friend and wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward- I dedicate this volume. Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to me; but the work as it stands has had, in a very insufficient degree, the inestimable advantage of her revision; some of the most important portions having been reserved for a more careful re-examination, which they are now never destined to receive. Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom."

Reading on the Beach

I put this down as a record to myself really. A sort of snapshot of the Wheldon family's summer reading habits. I'd like to know others' experience of holi-lit.

So here is the context: we were in Spain for a week, near Almeria, hot as blazes. Too warm to do anything other than lie or sit on the beach. I finished Babbit by Sinclair Lewis, read Lustrum by Robert Harris, A Far Cry from Kensington (again) by Muriel Spark, and started Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin (the Spark was the most impressive of these books). DNM read Engleby by Sebastian Faulks (while setting up a number of shoots for the next couple of months). JAH read about 44 pages of Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (but won several European Cups playing Football Manager on his iPhone). CGP finished The Last Kingdom (again) by Bernard Cornwall, The Amber Spyglass (again!) by Philip Pullman and all but 50 pages or so of For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

A word on the Spark: her books, like William Trevor's, are faultless. Her prose has the weight of the poetic, the sense that the story lies in the very fibre of its telling rather than in its mere pattern. And she is funny. Pisseur de copie. How I wish I'd remembered that phrase when thinking, writing, speaking about my father's biographer.


My friend Jody Tresidder directed me to this website and the photographs of Sergey Larenkov. I find them rather moving while wondering at the same time why no-one has really thought of this before (they probably have, though perhaps without the eye for detail or the powerfully present sense of history). I only wish that the site gave more information in English about the locations, dates and actors in the pictures.

The Druidstone

Imagine this: the most beautiful coast path on earth, a beach half shingle half smoothed sand, flanked by cliffs and rockpools, white-horsed rollers, a sky as big as Asia; a handsome old house, Welsh stone grey, a walled garden of grottoes and lawns and bowers; imagine a hotel in which you feel no need to lock your door, where one assumes friendship with one’s fellow guests and where one is prepared sometimes to wait a little longer for one’s supper than is quite desirable.
Stuck where the tonsils should be in the great mouth of St Bride’s Bay, the upper pious lip of St David’s to the north, the full, commercial lip of Milford Haven to the south, is such a place. The Druidstone is uncompromisingly itself, a haunt for those who once dreamed of the bohemian idyll. You will either feel utterly at ease or edgily uncomfortable; for the former this could be the best hotel in the world.