Monthly Archives: December 2009

Subterranean enucleation

The Northern Line has those posters, puffing Jeremy Clarkson’s latest opus. The profundity of the work is demonstrated by the slogan:

Shakespeare? I’d rather stick pencils in my eyes!

Clarkson, it should be remembered, is a thinker so influential that Iain Dale’s readers recently voted him 47th among political commentators in Britain today. So, eat your heart out, Vernon Bogdanor. Which says a great deal about all three parties there involved in that bathetic beauty parade. Lower still and lower shall the bounds be set.

As for that poster, Malcolm was at a loss this dreary afternoon. Who would want Clarkson in a book, for heaven’s sake? He’s bad enough as lining for a budgie cage, or to wrap the ashes in.

Out of the ether came an imagined note, writ full in quill-pen:

As I wrote for Cornwall (Act III, scene vii):

See’t shalt thou never. Fellows, hold the chair.
Upon these eyes of thine I’ll set my foot.

Do, do: we steal by line and level, an’t like your grace.

Ah yes, thought Malcolm. That last line’s Trinculo, to Caliban. Appropriate indeed. So the mind goes from one monster to another to another to another.

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Filed under advertising., blogging, Iain Dale, Sunday Times

Froth on the coffee = spring in the step

Malcolm’s mornings have been transformed. By an appliance of science.

He came across one, initially, in the dee-lite-ful home of his emigré daughter, as he tried to face the rigours of a Noo Joisey morning. A milk frother.

Insert a small quantum of skimmed red-top. Press the button: blue light comes on, frothing starts. Press the button again: light changes to red, milk is being frothed and heated. Wowza! Seconds later, scalding black coffee is topped with a white duvet of foam. A new way to counter last evening’s hangover. Aaah!

The wee appliance that delivered this wonder has been available in all good UK stores (i.e. John Lewis) for some time, at an inordinate cost out of all proportion to the benefit gained. But, hey!, that’s what Christmas presents are all about, huh?

Sometimes I sits and thinks …

Pause. And sometimes I just sits. The profound two-part observation, regularly repeated of Malcolm’s dear, dead old Dad, with the obligatory mid-point double puffing of pipe.

So, today, Malcolm sits and blogs, with his cup of froth-topped coffee. And reminisces of drinking frothy coffee, fifty years gone, in a coffee bar just off Dublin’s Dawson Street (so the time must be the droughty mid-afternoon “holy hour“). And the memory is the juke-box playing Jimmy Giuffre and The Train and the River

And, inevitably, this mentally morphs into colour and the titles of Jazz on a Summer’s Day:

Nostalgia: froth up and taste the Arabica.

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Filed under Dublin., Jazz, Music, travel, Trinity College Dublin

Any man’s death diminishes me …

Which is the more disgusting?

  • The paeons of bloodlusty applause from the Main Street Media for China killing Akmal Shaikh? In which regard, step forward Leo McKinstry in the Mail (complete with wholly relevant, no doubt, piccie of Kate Moss). Britain expected no less of  you.
  • The like of Iain Dale blaming it all on the present British Government for the singular failure to send a gunboat. Britain could never expect a whit more of him. Alas, poor Dale, struggling to find a seasonal voice: even his hot-links seem not to be working. Compare and contrast with Tim Montgomerie’s humane, decent and rational stance: perhaps it’s the difference between an intelligent Tory (a rare but identifiable breed) and total, irredeemable dross.

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Filed under Daily Mail, Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie, Tories.

Medieval filth (part 92)

Obviously, this season of peace and goodwill, the dog-walkers of Norf Lunnun did not extend the same to other pedestrians.

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Filed under broken society, civil rights, crime, London, sleaze.

Christmas Day in the workhouse

What is it with the feminine psyche? For therein lies the continued need for Christmas. Men just get drunk, blithely, blissfully, hog-whimperingly, quiescently, as they traditionally have, ever since Beowulf’s Hrothgar determined the model.

In this secret world of women, for weeks there has been covert parcel wrappings, wholesale depredations on the provisioners, reviving of the discarded freezer in the garage to accommodate overflows.

Then there is the arrival of daughters, and associated broods. Suddenly the bathroom has serried ranks of toothbrushes, soaps, shampoos and tinctures. Piles of discarded clothes for laundering. Queues for loos. Ankle-grabbers and carpet-munchers everywhere. We have a child farm. Enough to man a rugby sevens team (if we play the girl at full back).

Christmas Eve becomes a frantic whirl. The turkey has to be collected from the poulterer at some ungodly hour. The supermarket has to be raided lest there be a famine of sprouts, a dearth of different types of milk. Between the feeding of the young and older (now a two-session job), neighbours come calling to leave keys — sensibly they are taking themselves away to impose on others.

The Day itself starts early. Excited children are about and susurrating with expectation. There is this replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, not much less than full size, in varicoloured wrapping papers, occupying the front hallway, around the base of the tree. Little fingers keep poking at the choicer, larger, parcels.

The Redfellow Hovel tradition, the mid-day present opening, has to be brought forward to cope with the excess of infantile energy. It takes perhpas three quarters of an hour to reduce the single mammoth pile to individual loot piles. Again it seems remarkably akin to what is described in the hall of Heorot, except the modern need for batteries (AA, AAA and smaller buttons) for which, for once, there is stock laid in.

Next up the dresin, stuffing and ovening of the turkey. This has been planned for weeks: it becomes a military enterprise as complex as Overlord. Children have to be equally stuffed: this is a holding operation, which seems to involve various fruits and lurid finger-snacks spread across the table.

Then a moment of blessed peace. The small livestock disappear to ramp, romp, scurry and slide through the woods. Vegetables are prepared. Malcolm retreats from the field of battle, defeated and surplus to requirements, with a stiff scotch.

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Filed under blogging, Literature, London


Now, what’s the proper reaction to a political announcement squeezed out on Christmas Eve?


Let’s go back a bit. Just over twenty seven months, in fact. We find this:

Boris Johnson has vowed that his first act as Mayor of London will be to scrap bendy buses and replace them with a modern-day Routemaster.

For the record, that was 12th September 2007: say, seven months before Blasted Boris entered the Great Testicle to be en-stooled. In the meanwhile, from time to time, the expectant public have managed to suppress the odd yawn when this non-event was up-dated. Now, finally, we have a manufacturer, Wrightbus, and an unoriginal specification:

Due to be introduced into service in 2011, the bus will have an open platform at one of its three entrances, with the platform able to be closed off at certain times, such as at night.

There will be two staircases and the bus will incorporate the latest hybrid technology to make it 40% more fuel efficient than conventional diesel buses and 15% more fuel efficient than current London hybrid buses.

That interprets as:

  • barely in time for the next Mayoral election;
  • a conventional double-decker which may, from time to time, be a two-person operation (and that’s when, and only when, – apart from the initial photo-op – the “hop-on, hop-off” arrangement would be permitted);
  • less efficient than the derided articulated bus;
  • occupying twelve metres length of road space (which, in itself, limits the routes on which it might be used);
  • probably not many seats on the lower deck; and
  • probably only a couple of buses for “evaluation” in the initial order.

It seems likely we are looking at is a slight up-dating and re-panelling of the Scania model that is operated by the Kowloon Motor Bus Company. So here it is:

The coded message is in the footnote to the (remarkably unenthused) barely-adjusted press release, as relayed by the professional website,

The Capoco conception, joint winner of the initial design competition which may bear little resemblance to the final product due to hit London streets in 2011.

In other words, no more coverage for Boris’s well-cut flannel.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, London, Northern Ireland, Tories.

Disconnections and grapeful expectations

Malcolm has commented previously on the incongruous views expressed in the Sunday Times Business section, so contrary to the negativism of the news and views elsewhere in the rag. This week the dissident is David Smith’s Economic Outlook.

He sets out his stall thus:

It may seem odd then to say that things could have been a lot worse. Part of my mission is to take the “dismal” out of the dismal science of economics.

Even that would be enough to cause expulsion from the high table of Jeff Randall at Sky or the Telegraph. In the Mail, Sun and Express it would be unthinkable that there could be anything less than gloom, doom and despond (all personally plotted, with malice aforethought, by one G. Brown).

David Smith then proceeds to tick the boxes on the annual report card, and it comes up pretty positive: the stock market, the state of housing, the value of sterling,  avoiding deflation:

As it is, I would much rather have Britain’s problems than those of Japan.

Best of all is the job market. Employers and employees have shown huge flexibility to get through this recession. Wage freezes, cuts and shorter working weeks mean employment has fallen by only a third of what it was reasonable to expect…

… as we … say farewell to a fascinating year, probably never to be repeated, we can breathe a sigh of relief that it was not even worse.

Ummm, nice.

Over at the Observer, though, there’s a real goody. William Keegan has his moment of cheer, but mainly spends this week bashing the dirty politics of bankers:

I did not expect the banking system itself to go bankrupt.

What was more predictable was that the bankers would not recognise their own condition and would want to carry on as normal.

But I am not convinced our policymakers really know what to do with the banking system – at least not while there is not enough competition within national banking centres, but too much competition between banking centres, with bankers cynically playing off one government against another.

Then he goes for a bit of therapeutic shin-hacking:

… there are some retired Treasury hands – and a lot of Conservatives – forecasting dire things, sterling crises and the need for further cuts. That the Treasury, under whatever government, is planning to halve the deficit in four years and carry on reducing it is not good enough for them.

A bunch of fives

Over his head, Ruth Sunderland is at the same game, but it is her side-bar which has the gem of the week. Again, it seems missing from the on-line edition, and deserves repetition:

I’m not sure whether British Airways boss Willie Walsh is a fan of the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, but he should have a look at her book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. In it, she describes an experiment with capuchin monkeys that illuminates industrial disputes. Scientists taught the capuchins to trade pebbles for slices of cucumber; so long as the monkeys got the same, they were all content. Then the scientists gave one of them a grape. The other were so upset that they threw their pebbles out of the cage; some were so angry they went on hunger strike. Atwood says: “It was a monkey picket line: they might as well have been carrying signs that read ‘Management Grape Dispensing Unfair’. “

That demonstrates how deeply the concept of fairness is hardwired into the simian and human brain … However much rage BA cabin crew provoked by threatening to strike at Christmas, most ordinary employees would identify on some level with their sense that they are being made to pay for mistakes made by managements, bankers and politicians.

She sees the BA affair and the bankers’ ramp as:

… a wholesale violation of people’s sense of fairness. Does this matter? You bet. Unchecked, it will lead to more industrial and social unrest. Disaffection will also hobble the recovery: building a healthy post-cruch economy will require committed, creative and innovative entrepreneurs and employees. It’s not just sour grapes.

Now, think on: just how helpful to that healing process would be a penny-counting, job-cutting, benefits-chopping, us-versus-them Thatcher-lite Tory government?

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Filed under banking, broken society, economy, Guardian, reading, Sunday Times, Tories., underclass