Saturday, 27 October 2012


Just back from this big beautiful beast of a movie.  Knocks the Dark Knight into a bowler hat.  Somehow the team - Mendes, Deakins, Newman, Logan et al - have managed to, yep, 'resurrect' Bond, marrying the old with the new in an almost seamless, er, bond.  Plus we had no less than four Hamlets to enjoy.  I missed Ralph Fiennes at the theatre, but I saw Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear.  Is four top Hamlets in a single movie a record, I wonder?

Henry Jackson Society

This is a cross-post from the Henry Jackson Society

The ugly face of anti-Semitism appeared at our university campuses again this week, with a radical minority of students celebrating the stifling of Jewish opinion in Scotland. On Wednesday evening,  Student Rights, a campaign of the Henry Jackson Society, broke the news that a group of protesters had disrupted an event at the University of Edinburgh at which Daniel Taub, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, was due to speak.

Chanting anti-Israeli slogans including “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, activists shouted down the Ambassador and refused entreaties from university staff and students to allow him to continue. Organised via Facebook, campaigners described Ambassador Taub as “a propagandist for an apartheid state and a defender of war crimes.”

An individual present at the event told Student Rights that the protestors continued shouting for an hour, creating an intimidating and hostile atmosphere for the Jewish students who had attended the event. Of course, this was not just about frightening those on campus who are sympathetic towards Israel, but about stifling any debate at all which contradicts their radical opinions.

This is not, of course, the first time that such behaviour has been seen on the UK’s university campuses, or the University of Edinburgh itself. In February 2011 an event featuring the Foreign Ministry advisor Ishmael Khaldi was abandoned after 50 protestors surrounded him and began chanting “Israel is a racist state”. Student supporters of Israel have been assaulted whilst protesting against ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and told that “the best thing the Jews have ever done was go into the gas chamber”.  Other representatives of the Israeli government have been attacked after giving talks on campus.

Marginalising the opinions of Jewish students on their own campuses has become something to be proud of for these ‘activists’.  In refusing to allow Ambassador Taub to speak these students showed their true nature: their interest is not debate but intimidation.  It is high time that the university authorities took a stand on this thuggish-ness.  It is not only poisoning constructive research and discussion but poisoning the reputation of UK universities as places of education rather than propaganda.  Whether the Edinburgh university authorities take action against those involved in this week’s protests will be the clearest signal possible of whether they take this issue seriously or not.


The best tight head in the world is out of the Autumn internationals.  As Kingsley Jones says, Jones  is the man Wales would least want to have injured for these games.

Also, I watched and enjoyed The Terminal last night, and just by way of fizzogish contrast I include a picture of one of its stars, the equally dazzling (and Welsh) CZJ

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Tears, Idle Tears

A hundred years before Philip Larkin, Tennyson packs a punch even more powerful. The older one gets, the more resonant this wonderful poem becomes.

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sports Personality of the Year

Come Saturday...

Invincible Lithuania

The latest Guardian rugby 'Breakdown' begins thus:

The All Blacks face Australia in Brisbane on Saturday having won their last 16 Test matches, two short of the record held by Lithuania.

The rest can be found here.  More interestingly, read about the unbeatable Lithuanians here. Delighted to see they scored 13 tries against Serbia.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Who's a good boy?

Denise Stephenson posted this on her Facebook page, and I've nicked it because I like it very much.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Thursday, 11 October 2012


This story appeared first in Orbis 159 and appears to have been enjoyed by several readers, so here it is, be-blogged.

Nine Years

She was the daughter of a friend of mine, and we found ourselves standing together at a book launch in an art gallery in the currently fashionable part of town. I’d taken a cursory look at the art, and I wasn’t really interested in the book (something about Rothko?), simply biding time until my friend finished networking. We were going out for supper later.
His daughter looked as bored as I felt; somehow we’d gravitated towards the same non-place by a door marked ‘Private’.
 ‘Well,’ I said, with a sigh, as though it was the obvious thing to say. It turned out it was.
 ‘Yeah, exactly.’
Late teens, with bobbed dark hair, she wore red canvas shoes, blue jeans and a vaguely ethnic-looking scarf on top of a fibrous brown sweater.
 ‘A bit dull,’ I said.
 ‘Tedious garbage,’ she said. That seemed to deserve a response, but all I managed was ‘yep’.
For half a minute or so we stood in silence, watching proceedings.
 ‘Are you coming to supper with us?’ I asked eventually.
 ‘No. Just wanted to see Dad for five minutes.’
 ‘I saw you arrive with a big bag – have you been somewhere?’
 ‘Germany. Burying my grandmother’
 ‘I see. But your father didn’t go?’
 ‘Obviously not. He never had much time for Mum’s side of the family. Or Mum for that matter.’
 I let that pass. I didn’t like her much myself.
 ‘Was your mother upset? Were you? I mean, did you like your grandmother? Were you close?’
 ‘My mother is upset because she suddenly feels free, and she feels bad about suddenly feeling free.’
 ‘She looked after her for nine years.’
 ‘That’s a long time.’
 ‘Grandmother’s revenge.’
 ‘I don’t follow’. I grabbed a glass of Valpolicella off a passing tray, and offered it to the girl. She shook her head.
 ‘Rachel, isn’t it?’
 ‘Yeah. Anyway, the thing is, my mother spent a lot of her life trying to escape from my grandmother.’
 ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
Rachel hadn’t looked me in the eye yet. She had been looking around the room, her tone dispassionate, the story told as though with a shrug, as though it didn’t matter – just information. Now she was looking at me.
 ‘My grandmother was a bitch.’
 ‘Sorry to hear that too. That’s why you didn’t like her?’
 ‘No.’ She left it that but I was curious now.
 ‘Was it something she did or said?’
 ‘Something she said. When I was about 12. She was already ill. I’d told her that I loved going to see her. I loved that she cooked for us and gave us toys and seemed to like, you know, go out of her way to please us. She said she hated doing it. And it wasn’t what she said that made me hate her, it was that I like couldn’t think of any way of answering. What was I going to say to that? I hated her from then on. I really hated her, you know?’
 ‘I can see that, yes’
 ‘Can you? I bet you can’t. Although, actually, most of my friends have a story like this.’
 ‘Do they?’
 ‘Everyone does.’
 ‘I don’t.’
 ‘Aren’t you lucky then?’ That mild aggressiveness of youth can take you by surprise in the middle of an otherwise civilized conversation. I said I supposed I was.
 ‘Thing was, my grandfather was a mechanic on a boat…’
 ‘A naval mechanic?’
 ‘That’s what I said. He was away for months at a time, and so my grandmother made a lot of my mother. Sort of smothered her. And as soon as she could leave, my mother did, she came to England and became an artist and married Dad and everything, and so these last nine years have been like my grandmother's revenge.’
 ‘That seems a harsh way of looking at things. I mean, don’t you think your mother had a duty to your grandmother? To look after her?’
 Rachel looked at me with a curl of her lip as though she thought I was being stupid. Perhaps I was. Then her face relaxed.
 ‘They should have been my nine years’.
 And she walked away.

© copyright, Wynn Wheldon, 2012

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Perks of Being a Walfflower

This is a terrific movie about the power and need for kindness and friendship. I wept almost from beginning to end.  It is not, however, sentimental.  It takes a first-rate storytelling ability to render good people interesting, and this is what the director-writer, Stephen Chbosky, obviously drawing on his own experience of teenagerdom, has achieved with aplomb.  A grown-up movie for the youthful and reminder to those of us no longer so of what it was like, both the good and the bad.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Popular Triumph

Am delighted to say that my poem 'Night Sky' has been voted 2nd in the Orbis 159 Readers' Award.  Orbis is edited by the indefatigable Carole Baldock, and is well worth a subscription. Issue 160 is just out.  Details here.

And here is the poem, or at least a version thereof:


Occasionally, I am adrift. Look up:
the star-splintered sky is full of time,
whole generations speeding away.

On a warm evening you can hear a beat
rising and falling on the breeze;
drying my sweat, there’s a gust of Welsh

through the open window. Look up:
Gandaberunda in flight above Kilburn,
a phoenix rising above Edgware.

North west London is alive with wings.
Astonishments, I suppose, but this happens
when looking for gods or reasons.

Note: Information on the magical, mythological Hindu bird Gandaberunda, here.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


In what possible sense can throwing an apple core into a hedge be regarded as "littering"?  Cyril Falls'  punishment for having done so (described here) makes a mockery of the law and of Down District Council.  I'm fairly sure civil servants have better things to do than to sneak on the perfectly reasonable actions of the people who pay their wages and pensions.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Judith Cash Paintings

Then and Now Now and Then 
Exhibition runs: 9th - 16th Oct 2012
Opening evening: 11th Oct 6 - 9pm
Location: Gallery & Project Space

TC's mum

More info here.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Trilling on Polonius

My lyric-writing son has been thinking about the way he writes songs.  Recently he read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and was much taken with Ernest's earnestness about 'truth'.   Applying this to song-writing, Son finds it best exemplified in songs by Bruce Springsteen.  In the light of this, I thought I'd have a look at Lionel Trilling's Sincerity and Authenticity, which I haven't read since 1977, and on page 3 came upon the following passage.  It is something we all know and recognise in Polonius's famous speech, but I think Trilling puts it terrifically well. It has not much to do with song writing, although  the phrase "the way the lines sound" might be useful to any aspiring Cole Porter or Paul Simon.

There is a moment in Hamlet which has a unique and touching charm. Polonius is speeding Laertes on his way to Paris with paternal advice that has scarcely the hope of being heard, let alone heeded.  The old man's maxims compete with one another in prudence and dullness and we take them to be precisely characteristic of a spirit that is not only senile but small. But then we are startled to hear:

This above all: to thine own self be true
Anmnd it doth follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

We naturally try to understand that concluding sentence of Polonius's speech in a way that will make it consort with our low opinion of the speaker - 'If you always make your own interests paramount, if you look out for Number One, you will not mislead your associates to count on your attachment to their interests, and in this way you will avoid incurring their anger when, as is inevitable, you disappoint their expectations'.  But the sentence will not submit to this reading.  Our impulse to make its sense consistent with our general view of Polonius is defeated by the way the lines sound, by their lucid moral lyricism.  This persuades us that Polonius has had a moment of self-transcendence, of grace and truth.  he has conceived of sincerity as an essential condition of virtue and has discovered how it is to be attained.

Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (1972) 

Casablanca Dates

PLEASE NOTE that the 12th December gig has been cancelled.

Forthcoming Casablanca gigs

9th October, London – The Garage, Holloway Rd W/Glitches
11th October, London – The Old Queens Head, Essex Rd W/Bluebell
15th October, London – Hoxton Sq Bar + Kitchen W/A Silent Film
17th November, London – Barfly, Chalk Farm W/Crocodiles
20th November, London – O2 Academy 2, Islington W/Spinto Band
21st November, Manchester – Ruby Lounge W/Spinto Band
6th December, London – Electrowerkz, Angel W/Theme Park
12th December, London – Hoxton Sq Bar + Kitchen W/Hey Sholay

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Miracle of Medinah

This is what television is for.  Live coverage of great sporting events somehow justifies all the gutterstuff.  Last night's Ryder Cup victory was up there with Headingly 81, the Rugby World Cup, Redgrave's 5th, United in '99, 2005 Ashes, the London Olympics.

There are people who mix up golf as a game with golf as a social activity (and the stereotype that attaches thereto), and determinedly avoid it, but the sheer dramatic tension - it is so slow (99 percent of a golf game is taken up with walking) - in which every single moment of play is crucial make it not only a great sport to play but also an astonishingly compelling one to watch.  The estimable Butch Harmon, one of Sky's commentators, told us last night that we were watching "great theatre" and he was dead right.  This was a play with 12 strands to it, and glorious arcs of drama, and drive of narrative.  There was even a powerful spectral presence in the form of Seve Ballesteros.

And of course Ian Poulter is a god among men. But then so is Justin Rose.  And Martin Kaymer.  And Paul Lawrie.... and Jose Maria Olazabal.