Saturday, 25 August 2012

In Huw's Music We Trust

Huw Stephens is a god among men. Not only does he wear glasses and a beard, but he is Welsh and is called Huw.  What is more he has first class taste in popular music. But above and beyond all this he is a Gentleman.  This may be an old-fashioned idea, this idea of the Gentleman, but it is not a bad one, and Huw Stephens embodies it.  I am not in a position to divulge my reasons for promoting Huw in this way, but should you find me in a crowded bar, after a couple of pints of Guinness, it is likely that I shall tell you.  In the meantime, listen in to Huw on weekdays between 1.00 and 4.00 pm and on Thursdays for two hours after midnight.  BBC Radio One. You will hear something you like, mark my words. Diolch yn fawr Huw! 

Laura Trott - World Cup

Not the Olympics, not the World Championship but the World Cup 'test' event for the velodrome at the Olympic Park in April.  Spectacular race from tiny Laura Trott who of course went on to win two Gold medals. She really is terrific. Makes you laugh and cry at the same time.

Friday, 24 August 2012

H.L. Mencken

My pal Mr A.K. just sent me this email.

This is nice. A quotation that turned up in THE WIRE. I thought I better catch up with it on DVD while I had the time. It's from the final season and comes from a newspaperman with the Baltimore Sun, as he drinks away the night after being fired because of cutbacks. It's by H.L. Mencken.

“If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.”


East Finchley's very own poetry organ, edited by Shereen Abdallah.  It contains poems by Jill Bamber, Dennis Evans, Susanna Roxman and myself, among others.  The standard is high, it hardly needs saying.  Where you can buy it I have no idea, but you'd get a copy if you went to the launch at East Finchley Methodists Church on September 1st, and I am sure that rather wonderful bookshop in the High Road, the name of which escapes me, will be stocking it. I just looked it up: Black Gull. Number 121 High Rd.


You'd be mad - mad, I say - not to pre-order your fancy vinyl copy of Casablanca's single 'Yes / Natalie', to be released worldwide on September 18th.  Go here and order.  You will not regret it.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Perhaps not quite the right time of year for this post, but this Geoffrey Jones film from 1963 was shown recently at the BFI's 100th Birthday party for photographer Wolfgang Suschitzky, with whom my wife worked years ago (she has also worked with his son and grandson). Love the fact that one of the trains is called 'Barbados'.

Anonymous/Assange/Atkin and George

Good to know for certain what side 'Anonymous' are on, as they attacked British government websites, apparently to show their support for Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault.  There is a good deal of talk about sexual assault at the moment, what with George Galloway making it clear that "not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion", and his soul mate Todd Atkin in the USA suggesting that "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Why, one wonders, does Anonymous not turn its attention to the Government of Ecuador, which is in the process of returning Belarussian dissident Alexander Barankov to almost certain execution in his own country. Details in The Guardian here.

Perhaps Barankov can be persuaded to seek asylum at the British Embassy in Quito, and then we could swap a fugitive from Swedish justice for a fugitive from Belarus tyranny. But then of course Wikileaks have already given details of other Belarus dissidents to the Belarus government, through the good offices of notorious right-wing anti-semite Israel Shamir (see Index on Censorship, here), so Assange and Anonymous and Galloway and assorted cronies are all one-up on democracy as it is and it seems there's bugger-all legitimately elected governments can do about it. I suspect Anonymous regards itself as a left wing operation.  Doesn't smell like that does it?  Then again, perhaps it does...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Prelude und Liebestod - Wagner

Prelude und Liebestod - orchestral version   From Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde', the story of which my son told me today while playing a football game on his telephone. Played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti, who I once met!  He and my father got on very well.  This piece of music is on my Desert Island list. Unlike Bach, who can make you believe there is a heaven, Wagner keeps you firmly on earth while at the same time making you feel that there are passions that can take you to the highest limits of experience. Does that make sense?  Possibly not.


Casablanca launch their single 'Yes / Natalie' on
18th September at
Admission free

Friday, 17 August 2012

New Dog

I have been told that to honour your last dog it is right and proper to get a new one as soon as possible, along the lines of the king is dead, long live the king.  Recently, I met a dachshund, and despite a lifetime's dismissal of the breed, I fell in love.  So I now want a dog a little like this one:


Casablanca's first release is 'Yes' and 'Natalie'.  Details here.  The music blogs appear to like the former, and so they should, but wait until they hear the latter.  You can listen to 'Yes' here.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Assange and Ecuador

I note that rather than return to that well-known hotbed of injustice and human rights violation, Sweden, Julian Assange of Wikileaks has been granted asylum by Ecuador. I am sure he is aware of article 230 of the Ecuadorian Criminal Code – under which anyone who “offends” the president or other government authorities may be sentenced to up to three months in prison for offending officials and up to two years for offending the president. I'm confident Mr Assange would never offend so liberal a government.  For more information on the enlightened approach to freedom of expression and human rights in Ecuador, see Amnesty International here and Human Rights Watch, here.

Excellent Guardian editorial, here.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Knowledge and Wisdom

"Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that a tomato doesn't belong in a fruit salad."

Monday, 13 August 2012


Frankly, I feel a little ashamed of myself.  I'd been paid well to come up with pertinent snippets of poetry to adorn the walls and signs of the Olympic Park.  I'd enjoyed the work (despite the fact that none of it was used).  Nevertheless, at a couple of poetry readings before the games started I was introduced as having something to do with them, and I mumbled apologies in a particularly craven and British sort of a way.  The truth was that while I detested all the naysayers and doom-mongers and Morrissey-types (he and that idiot tweeting MP are made for each other), and pretended to be gung-ho for it all, really I was rather dreading the whole thing.  I thought it might be a terrible flop, felt as though i was the host of a party to which nobody would come.

What to say then about the most astounding two weeks in British cultural life.  Public weddings, funerals, wars, elections, football and rugby competitions - even the Ashes! - nothing in my lifetime has matched this in terms of emotion, pride, exhilaration, disbelief and hoarseness, not to mention the emptying of tear ducts. 

I know we are supposed to thank the volunteers, the people of London, and the athletes first, and I don't especially like Sebastian Coe - I was always an Ovett man -  but he was a beautiful runner, and he deserves every plaudit he gets for winning the bid in the first place and for heading up this preposterous triumph. I read a story about him in The Guardian, about his queuing to get into some venue, and it struck me that there are very few countries (any other country? Norway perhaps?) where the Head Honcho of the whole caboodle would be seen queuing for anything, let alone to get into his own games.

So: Sports Personality of the Year?  I know it is crummy, but I'd vote for Seb.  I won't be allowed to though, because he won't be up there with Wiggo and Mo, Jess and Ben etc..  So I'll go for Jess because the pressure on her was by some degrees the greatest.

My favourite remark of the whole thing was that of an old Yorkshireman of my acquaintance, whose views are somewhat to the right of the Daily Express: "Nicola Adams? She's my new heroine. She's from Yorkshire you know."

Poetry Reading

Should you happen to be in the vicinity.  I've no idea how long I'll read for.  probably five minutes or so, but there are other poets worth listening to, and isn't it time you visited the East Finchley Methodist Church anyway?

E, it rather escaped my attention when I posted this, but the fact is that I shall be in France, so I shan't be reading.  Probably for the best all round.  Do go if you can.  Little mags need big support.