Friday, 30 December 2016


Image result for brexit t-shirt

Terrific year for me personally: my Miracle Year but very unsure about elephants, polar bears and the rest of humanity. Trump of course and Brexit. To be honest, I thought I would escape the consequences of these two events by dying but now I know I have at least another ten years, I shall have to come to terms with them. All this talk of a ‘reset’ with Vlad; Putin will just take what he wants and leave the rest.

2016 confirmed what I have been aware of for years; we are not the tolerant, moderate country we thought we were. The Brexit vote put an end to that notion. In fact politicians foolish enough to search for Britishness, those indefinable qualities and values that define who we think we are, conjure up strings of imagined characteristics, virtually all of which have turned out to be wrong. We are the country that has taken a tiny number of refugees and voted to keep out foreigners at any price, however self-harming. As the Germans take a million refugees and the Italians and Greeks absorb thousands a week, one can imagine the paroxysms of national hysteria if the Isle of Wight suddenly received Lampedusa’s boatloads of migrants every day.
I was reading something about the Calais Jungle yesterday. I had always thought that they were Syrian refugees with children . . . [we Guardian readers!] . . .  but in fact now that it has been destroyed the evidence shows the majority were 20-30 year old black Africans from several countries, chiefly Ethiopia. Didn’t know that. Maybe the Sun and the Telegraph got it right.
This segues into the issue of ‘race’. In my recent post relating to Vietnamese Boat People, I declared myself not a racist. Does this wash? Is racism about colour . . . or is it in fact that ethnicity is a red herring: culture-clash is the real issue here.

Here are some uncomfortable truths about the global nature of cultural bigotry:

Most Asians can’t stand the Japanese: they regard them as cruel, devious and dictatorial. Most Middle Eastern Islamic websites are rabidly, obscenely anti-Semitic . . . and they don’t bother with its Israel we don’t like, really . . .  they hate the Jews and don’t care who knows it. Yorubas loathe Ibos in Nigeria, and vice-versa. In South Africa, the majority of Zulu regard Bantu as a waste of space. Saudis, Syrians [some] and Iranians [all] describe Palestinians variously as ‘wasters’ and dangerous clowns.  A large percentage of Italian men are anti-negroid: go to any football match there [as I have done] and wait for a black player to come on. The monkey sounds are deafening. There is a long-standing mutual enmity between Poles and Russians. Anti-Semitism is casual and endemic in Greece.
A YouGov study in 2013 found that even among non-Caucasian British citizens, 63% answered an emphatic Yes to the question, ‘Would you like to see an end to all immigration into the UK for the time being?’ Not ‘controlled immigration’ or ‘skilled immigration’, but no immigration. It may be 95% now. But I’ve always been like this: accept people for what they are. The doctor who kept me alive last month was Sri Lankan and his colleague an Iraqi. One of my best clients when I was in business was also an Iraqi. Do I live in a bubble of middle-class tolerance?

In 2016 people simply didn’t seem able to relate to one another anymore.

Can I just end by thanking everyone who has stayed loyal to this blog during 2016. It must be obvious to you all that I have hardly left the house for six months: no film reviews; no theatre; no galleries or Art Exhibitions; no music gigs. Will try harder in 2017.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016


Image result for watership down

I see Richard Adams died over Christmas.

Watership Down, which I read at home in South Shields aged 21, just before I moved to London made a huge impression on me. For years I would cite it as my all-time favourite novel and it still to this day has the best-ever last line of any book, not just in my opinion but it frequently comes up in best last-line lists.

I went there once: to the real Watership Down. There is a map in the front of the book and you can use it to work out where the rabbits began and ended their journey. It is near Newbury in Berkshire, not far from Wash Common where Adams himself was raised. On the day I went, a midweek day like a Tuesday, there were maybe twenty other people wandering around who had made the same calculation as I had and climbed up the hill to retrace the rabbit’s steps.

What do I love about it? It is beautifully structured: the conflicts aren’t contrived; they arise from the natural course of the narrative, out of real life. There really would be tame rabbits fed by a farmer for food and there could be a river bridge that would fill a rabbit with terror at the prospect of crossing it. As Adams acknowledges in his Foreword, he owed a tremendous amount to The Private Life of the Rabbit [RM Lockley]: including Woundwort for one thing. The weakest section of the book, the raid on the farm and the cat is in fact pure imagination while the other events, the journey, the fights, the hierarchies, are largely taken from RM Lockley’s remarkable study. I won’t drone on about the poetry, the vivid imagining that lines like, The primroses were over brought to a townie like me but it is the language of the Countryside: it is that which brings the story alive and what makes the book a classic.

I never read anything else by Adams; never read Shardik or Plague Dogs. My loss, I guess.

And that last line?
‘It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch . . .’

Monday, 26 December 2016


Image result for american trains

The guy seems to be everywhere this month: Desert Island Discs; big interview on TV; big interview in the Guardian [not particularly complimentary]; a new biography out for which he was allegedly paid $10m dollars: I guess the book is the reason he is so ubiquitous. The Great American Marketing Machine.
It took me ages to appreciate Bruce Springsteen. I couldn’t get past all the bombast of Born to Run and Born in the USA and all the stuff on the first album [Greetings from Asbury Park]. I think the first time I paid any attention was when I heard his own version of The Fever, still today probably my favourite Springsteen track [what a cock-up Southside Johnny made of it]. Then soon after I picked up on Racing in the Street and then I was hooked. Semi-hooked, anyway.

Not a big fan of lists but these are the only tracks I own:

The Fever
The River
Sad Eyes
Human Touch
The New Timer
Racing in the Street
Downbound Train [the version by Raoul Marlow]

One thing I felt was missing from all the interviews was how great his voice is. Yes, he writes good tunes and his lyrics can be eloquent but he has the voice of our times and a language we can somehow call our own.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Image result for holmes road studios

These are small, new homes intended for homeless people recently constructed in Kentish Town. Security is emphasised by the architects Peter Barber Associates and training and counselling facilities are provided on site.
Don’t know anything else about it except as you can see, they are very pretty and not at all what the majority of architects are designing these days.