Friday, 28 September 2012

Win an Old-Fashioned 45

Yep, you can win an old-fashioned 45 rpm vinyl single of Casablanca's double a-sided release 'Yes' and 'Natalie', here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

GRASS by Chrys Salt

Chrys Salt launches her terrific new collection GRASS at
The Actors Centre on Saturday October 13th 5.00pm – 7.00pm

The Actors Centre
1a Tower Street, London WC1H 9LP 

RSVP: or Tel: 0208 969 9221
Chrys Salt

With Adrian at the Peace Festival
i.m. Adrian Mitchell

if you saw him running it was because he'd spotted truth in the crowd and
was chasing it if you saw him smiling it was at a good deed waving from a
balcony if you saw him jumping it was in a playground with all the other
daft kids on the block raising anarchy if you heard him singing it was girls
and boys come out to play if you saw him laughing he was laughing he was
really laughing if you saw him waving it was to say HELLO come in and join
the feast of the human race if you saw him writing it was a love letter to
the world on the day of its crucifixion if you saw him dancing it was to a
Beatles tune about giving peace a chance and waiting for that moment to

Monday, 24 September 2012

NIB Magazine

A new literary webzine appears for the first time today.  
It is called NIB, it is American and it can be found here

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Soul of the Age

 by Ben Jonson

To draw no envy, SHAKSPEARE, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame ;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither Man nor Muse can praise too much.
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise ;
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right ;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance ;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin where it seemed to raise.
These are, as some infamous bawd or whore
Should praise a matron ; what could hurt her more ?
But thou art proof against them, and, indeed,
Above the ill fortune of them, or the need.
I therefore will begin: Soul of the age!
The applause ! delight ! the wonder of our stage!
My SHAKSPEARE rise ! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room :
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so my brain excuses,
I mean with great, but disproportioned Muses :
For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line.
And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
For names : but call forth thund'ring Aeschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To life again, to hear thy buskin tread
And shake a stage : or when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show
To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time !
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm !
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines !
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please ;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all ; thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion : and, that he
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses' anvil ; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame ;
Or for the laurel he may gain a scorn ;
For a good poet's made, as well as born.
And such wert thou ! Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well torned and true filed lines;
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandisht at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James !
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced, and made a constellation there !
Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with rage
Or influence, chide or cheer the drooping stage,
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.


An Englishman of the 1960s contemplating his next riff

Salman Rushdie

Now that the apparently much misunderstood Iranian Republic, provoked it seems by some amateur film of YouTube, has upped the bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, I note that even Guardian readers are getting upset (though obviously not Germaine Greer, John Berger or John Le Carre, all of whom took against Rushdie for writing his unreadable novel, although not because it was unreadable).

Despite attempts to blame the crappy film on the Israelis (by the BBC, among others) there seems an astonishing absence of the usual "blame it on the Jews" stuff that greets most Islamist outrages, though I suspect it is only a matter of time.

The moronic reaction to the you tube 'film' is terribly depressing*.  Perhaps even more depressing is the reaction of the United States to the murder of its Ambassador in Libya.  And I am preparing to be depressed by the British Government's response to Iran's upping of the bounty on the head of a British citizen - and a knight, to boot!

Now excuse me while I get back to my Christopher Hitchens...

Read up about all this in The Guardian, here and here.

* "moronic reaction to the you tube film" is not quite right, because it is fairly obvious that the Mullahs, ayatollahs and other assorted fascists have pounced on the film in order to stir up the rabble. Which is not to say that the rabble is not moronic, but rather that the reaction is not to the film, but to their leaders' rabble-rousing nuremburging.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Prom: Haydn & Richard Strauss

Bit late with this post, but that just goes to show that the experience it describes has been lingering pleasantly. We were invited by a good friend to a Prom on 7th Sept: Haydn Symphony 104 and Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony.

The Haydn was of course gleeful.  Appropriately for the Great Wen's magnificent year, 104 is known as the London symphony.  Haydn wrote it while in London, and it premiered here.  Haydn was delighted with the response: "The whole company was thoroughly pleased and so was I. I made 4000 gulden on this evening: such a thing is possible only in England."

I was especially delighted with the third movement which has a lovely swirling minuet that reminded me of Smetana's much later Ma Vlast - all continuous sound, rare in anything before Beethoven (he says not knowing a damn thing about this).

HOWEVER - my knee being not what it was or indeed ought to be, I was rather uncomfortable, and as the second half, the Strauss, was almost an hour long, I decided I'd be better off in the gods at the very top of the Albert Hall.  The Gallery is something all classical music venues ought to have. In the Gallery you can take off your jacket, fold it up as a cushion and lie down.  Some sorts of music really are better with the eyes closed.  And anyway, I couldn't get near the rail, and rather than spend an hour on tiptoe with a view of two and a half cellos and the occasional flourish of a baton, it was altogther more sensible to get prone.

The Alpine Symphony is a gigantic German work about going up a mountain, getting lost, being stuck in a storm and finally coming home.  All very Caspar David Friedrich and almost too grand to be sublime.  It is a cracker, commencing with Night turning to Day (darkness to light, don't you know), a tiny sound becoming an enormous one.  The piece requires a gigantic orchestra, including quite unnecessary pieces of equipment I read about in the programme, but the names of which escape me for the moment.  There is also an offstage brass band.

Lying on one's back, surrounded by Japanese students and people who really know their stuff (ie musicians who can't afford the posher seats), is a great way of taking the journey up and down the Alp.  At home it is easy to be distracted, and anyway live music is just so much more energetic.  It fills the space around you.  The whole thing was splendid, and I am most grateful to KF for the chance to have experienced it.

Jane Gibbs

This is a painting called 'In the Beginning' by Jane Gibbs, whose work is represented by The Stour Gallery, which can be found here.  If you like abstract painting with a hint of meaning, this is just the job.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Last month in Angelsea my first cousin once removed (I believe), Tomos Wheldon Williams, married Sara Jones.  As wedding photos go, this takes some beating in my view.  It was taken by Darren Williams.  His website is here, where you can see other pictures from the wedding.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


National Theatre, Olivier
Simon Russell Beale
Dir: Nicholas Hytner
Well, first things first: SRB is terrific.Manages to engage our sympathy for a stupid and hateful man.
It is fairly rare to see a Shakespeare play not a word of which one has heard or read before, and so this was intriguing.  Of course, being a drama rather than a book, I missed most of the poetry, straining to hear almost anyone but SRB.  I do not lay the blame with the actors, however, as I left my hearing aids at home (as usual).
What is obvious about Timon is that it was in some sense a dry run for the play that followed it, King Lear.  I think the director fathomed this.  The Beckettian squalor of the second half set invited thoughts of Lear and his cheese, and Timon's rages at ingratitude, are full, as in Lear, of disgust with the sexual act that brings forth humans.

I didn't care for Flavia at all: she had a kind of whine in her delivery that grated.  I'm afraid I didn't much like Flaminia either.  Hilton McRae enjoyed himself as the Cynic, as did I.  But this was a one-man show really.
It has a curious ending, but I think had the friendship between Alcibiades and Timon, which is there in the text, not been played down, then there might have been a resolving sense of pathos which would have made the close more satisfactory.
I think we're unlikely to see Timon again.  SRB's nailed it good and proper.
"...the learned pate
Ducks to the golden fool..."

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hampstead Heath in August by Edward Thomas

I have filched the following from a copy of the Ham & High.  The original article by Paul Jarman can be found here.

Hampstead Heath is too good in itself to be made or obliterated by associations. When you have gone up nearly to the top of Heath Street — put in a certain humour by oldish, quiet shops, and flagged pavement in place of asphalte — you forget Keats and Leigh Hunt, ’Arry and ’Arriet and Mr. Kipling. The street goes steep and straight up to perhaps the highest point of the heath, and when you are almost there the walls of the last pair of houses frame the milky blue of the high harvest sky. Then, suddenly, they seem the last houses in the world; for only a hundred yards of ground lies visible between you and the sky.

This patch, containing a pond, is of hard, dry, bare, undulating gravel like a sea beach, and because nothing is to be seen beyond it save the unclouded blue, it creates instantly and powerfully the belief that beyond the edge of this beach the sea is hidden, whether at the foot of a cliff or of a gradual slope is uncertain. The belief lasts a quarter of a minute, and once at the top of the street and on this bare patch, the horizon is seen to be not a curve of sea, but serrated woods upon a long line of hills, all swiftly revealed as if by a miraculous command at blast of trumpet. Almost in the same moment, over the edge, the hollow land of the heath appears below you. Houses unmistakably bound it. Sometimes they look over it as if they regarded it as a possession. Sometimes as if they felt some dull astonishment at being separated only by the road from these billowy trees and wild hollows.

Were the heath level, this sense of possession would be lasting and complete. But the uneven wildness due to nature and excavation makes up for its small extent and saves the heath from the humiliation. Thus the houses are nothing but a frame: they do not combine the heath; they neither influence it nor receive any influence from it. They stand bald and impotent at the edge of this fragment of the wild. They are indifferent to the dry air, spiced with harvest, which divides all the little leaves of the trees and carries the bright notes of swallows and scattering linnets.

The last sheet but one of August Bank Holiday paper has been picked up. The dust, though harsh to feet and eyes and nostrils and fingers, is sweet to the mind because it is the dust of summer; and the linnets sweeten it like a fount breaking out of dry sand. This wind, though soft as sleep, is one of the great winds of the world: it touches the cheek with the tip of a light wing dipped in coolness, though the air is as fiery as it should be at St. Bartholomew-tide. It is no mere afterthought from the first illusion of distant sea: this August air extends from sea to sea over the world, linking the streets and these suburb glades to the upland corn, league beyond league, and to the waves shimmering around the coast.

Paul Jarman writes: This is taken from a series of five similar pieces which were given the title London Miniatures when they were first published in a posthumous 1928 collection of Thomas’s essays, The Last Sheaf. The originals are extant in an undated manuscript in the New York Public Library, so that it is impossible to be certain when Thomas might have composed them. The London Miniatures were all republished last year in England and Wales, the second volume of Oxford University Press’s on-going Edward Thomas: Prose Writings, edited by Guy Cuthbertson and Lucy Newlyn.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


The Casablanca posts just keep coming.  Here is the video for 'Yes' (dir: Julian Dyer), which will be released on Party Politics on 17th September.