Thursday, 30 April 2015

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Tuesday, 28 April 2015



In a letter written shortly before her death she wrote that her life “started with an arrival, inauspicious, at the LSE.  She had been discovered by Professor Harold Laski after she had invited him to talk at the Ealing branch of the Labour League of Youth of which she was chairwoman (or “charwoman” as Laski pronounced it). Laski invited her to come and work at the LSE in order to go to lectures and study for her university entrance examination. She worked in the Machine Room as a secretary to the Statistics Department for two years and in 1948 she was summoned before Laski and admitted to the School under the tutorship of Professor Kingsley Smellie.  She was by then assistant secretary of the Ealing Labour Party.

While Laski’s desire “to share what is most dignified in human nature” was the reason Mum had arrived at LSE, one of her own observations once there was that “it is not the case that the elite possess the works, but that the works possess the elite… The elite as I met it at LSE was at my service; there would have been no ‘beauties’ of Plato, Rousseau, Hobbes for me to have ‘a sight’ of, if generations of individuals whom these writers had come to ‘possess’ had not submitted to serve and to keep these works in tact and ever re-creative and re-created.”

Friday, 17 April 2015


Barbican Silk Street Theatre
Cheek by Jowl / Pushkin Theatre Moscow
Directed by Declan Donnellan

16 April 2015

Present: BM, RM, NM, Mr Roland Walters, Poppy, RW, SEMW, WW

The last time a couple of us attempted a foreign language production of Shakespeare at the Barbican, it was Cymbeline in Japanese and Mr Mendoza and myself were in seats that precluded us from seeing the surtitles. Mr Mendoza cleverly left at half-time.
         Measure for Measure is not so obscure a play as Cymbeline, and many of us had seen Michael Attenborough’s brilliant production at the Almeida five years ago, with Rory Kinnear and Anna Maxwell Martin and Ben Miles as the Duke (with whom we had a very good supper afterwards). However, it is not a play one knows in the sense that one knows Hamlet or Henry IV or The Tempest.  It is a complicated play that throws up all sorts of questions about morality; very probably it is the nearest Shakespeare gets to a play governed by New Testament ethics.  Seeing it in English requires concentration.  Seeing it in Russian?  Well, as I brushed my teeth before leaving home, I thought, this is one for the piety check box.
         Quite wrong.  A real pleasure.  It featured “nudity and smoking” as plays used to do without warning signs in the 1970s, and ran without an interval, the length of a movie, 105 minutes.  So obviously there were major extractions. Most sadly missed were the rude mechanical scenes with Pompey and Froth, but it was a minor sadness, and very likely they would have been difficult to properly translate into Russian.  The principles, especially the delicate Anna Khalilulina as Isabella, were first class.  Isabella is one of Shakespeare’s best roles for women, played here as more vulnerable than Anna Maxwell Martin’s, but nonetheless the very heart of the play (for it is she, after all, who learns the most).
         The real star was the production itself. The set comprised five red cubes, and an occasional odd chair or two and a desk (behind which a terrifically Sovietesque provost, Alexander Matrosov, sat smoking).  Around these the cast moved, sometimes in a close cohort, picking up characters at the end of a scene, depositing new ones, somehow softly, sometimes separately walking with tremendous purpose around and across the stage as though late for an important meeting or looking for an elusive friend.  The choreography of the thing was, in itself, a pleasure to watch. Occasionally there was music, a sort of Russian-inflected waltz (the play is set in Vienna). 
         This music, and the freer movement of the cohort signal the intrusion into Angelo’s grim puritanical world of the forgiving Duke, disguised as the Friar.  As his plans begin to unfold the play becomes lighter: the set itself seems less bloodily red. We are heading towards one of those Shakespeare resolutions in which everyone ends up married, as being the only way of maintaining sanity and order in a seriously messy world.
         There were surtitles.  Some of them were not Shakespeare – “fun-house” had both Mr Mendoza and myself baffled – but on the whole they were.  So it was hard to avert one’s eyes from these, but then it was equally hard to divert one’s attention from the stage, so enjoyable were these actors to watch.
         Speaking personally this was one of the Club’s most enjoyable outings.  I rather liked not having to keep up with spoken Shakespeare, given that I cannot hear very well these days.  I liked it too because – I know this is heretical – it was short.  I liked not having an interval.
It also seemed pertinent in its rejection of the puritan ethics that are enveloping us from both left and right..

         Here’s to nudity and smoking.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


Delighted to say that my odd little story, 'Sharing', has found a home on the splendid Black Sheep Journal site.  Here is is.

Monday, 13 April 2015


Calling out around the world.... I am within calling distance (84%) of the target the publishers Unbound set me to raise in order to publish my book about my father. If you have had even the merest inkling of a thought about pledging, please do so now. Thank you very much.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Disappeared by Roger Scruton

This extremely affecting novel will be described as being about grooming, sexual abuse, human trafficking, multiculturalism's vices, political correctness and similar issues.  It will be accused of all sorts of things, not least of which will be that it is by the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, bete noire of all right-thinking leftists.

Actually, fundamentally,  it is about one of the philosopher's great subjects, love. One of the jobs the book seeks to do is to distinguish between secular and religious forms. Indeed, it is the rubbing of one against the other that creates the sparks that propel the plot.  It is a book that almost certainly requires two or three readings, for its subtleties and nuances are hidden by a clarity of prose and a directness of storytelling that keeps the pages turning a little too fast for proper reflection.  As I think Nabokov said, "there's no such thing as reading a good book once".

The Disappeared
Julie Bindel on The Disappeared

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Other Woman by Anne Philpott


I don't know whether these daffs are the 'Twin Sisters' variety or not, but I call them 'cemetery ladies' anyway.  That's the kind of iconoclastic chap I am.