Also on wikipedia.
Now, back to the festivities.
The passing of this holiday season should improve Malcolm’s enjoyment of his daily diet of newsprint.
A major turn-off has been the prevalence of Chanel 5 adverts. In particular, variants on this one:
Doubtless, a creative media type saw it as seductive, sensuous, even erotic. Just the kind of thing to persuade innocent males to reach for their credit cards.
Was Malcolm unique in seeing a distasteful resemblance to a tape worm?
Oh, and a counterweight, the Audrey Tatou ad is terrific:
Guido (not that one, silly!) di Pietro had serial goes at the Annunciation. In his adult life he was Brother John from Fiesole — because Fiesole was where he took his Dominican vows. Flash forward a century and Vasari added “the Angelic” bit. Add in another four centuries or so, and he’s become “the Blessed”.
It was just as well the Blessed Fra Giovanni da Fiesoli Angelico (serial Californian divorcees get off lighter) hadn’t screen-printing as a medium. We’d be knee-deep in Annunciations and Crucifixions. As Malcolm muttered, after an extended Florentine traipse around the Accademia and the Uffizi on successive days, “you can have too much of a good thing”.
However, this is the one we all remember:
It’s in the Diocesan Museum at Cortona. It’s a big one (some two yards each way). And it’s one where Gabriel looks almost aero-spatially possible.
So why is Malcolm doing Fra Angelico? Has he become seasonal, and gooey? Nah!
It’s Steve Bell’s cruel take on the thing:
Yes, yes … it’s like being bullied by a Leichtensteiner admiral.
There is, of course, a serious aspect:
In a new row with Britain, the Mercosur bloc, which includes Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, agreed on Tuesday to close ports throughout the region to ships flying the flag of the disputed Islands.
The presidents of the countries agreed ships flying the Falklands flag “should not dock in Mercosur ports, and if that were to happen, they should not be accepted in another Mercosur port”.
A copy of the agreement also said member countries would adopt “all measures that can be put in place to impede the entry to its ports of ships that fly the illegal flag of the Malvinas Islands”.
The dispute, which has created a fresh diplomatic headache for the government, which controls the islands, involves a vast area of potentially mineral-rich South Atlantic waters.
At one level, this is simply “Britain’s difficulty is Argentina’s opportunity”, and shouldn’t be given higher priority than than second-hand thought.
Equally, it is hard not to find a smidgeon of wonder: how can a dispute, over a few bits of sheep-infested rock, fester so enduringly and so poisonously between two civilised, rugby-playing nations? Except, inevitably, oil is involved.
If history repeats itself, first as tragedy — for that is what Thatcher’s war most assuredly was, for both parties — and then as farce, in David Cameron we have the true flatulist, le vrai petomane, to open the second act. Which, of course, was the intended end (ahem!) of this post:
The winter solstice is at (London time) 5:30 am on Thursday morning. Malcolm hopes to be asleep to miss it.
The place for the sunset on Wednesday would be Maeshowe on Orkney. Catch the webcam link (hoping it works) here.
Malcolm shall, of course, maintain the well-worn tradition established by his Dear Old Dad. Later on Thursday he will gaze out his back window and mutter the hallowed line:
“Good to see the evenings pulling out.”
It comes just about time
At this grim, grey mid-winter the sun, even at noon, doesn’t make it over the roof-trees of the next road south. The rotary clothes-dryer in the back garden of Redfellow Hovel never gets any sunlight — a commodity in any case sorely rationed in London (Latitude 51deg, 32min N) at this time.
To the Brythonic Druids this was the time of “the light of the bear” — Alban Arthan. It is no coincidence that the Arthurian cycle starts with Arthur’s birth at mid-winter, and ends at Camlann, as Tennyson romantically has it:
So all day long the noise of battle roll’d
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur’s table, man by man,
Had fall’n in Lyonness about their Lord,
King Arthur: then, because his wound was deep,
The bold Sir Bedivere uplifted him,
Sir Bedivere, the last of all his knights,
And bore him to a chapel nigh the field,
A broken chancel with a broken cross,
That stood on a dark strait of barren land.
On one side lay the Ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.
Once one has seen Slaughterbridge, along the B3314, near Tregath Wood, in Cornwall, on a rare morning of hard, penetrating frost, little remaining emotional doubt where “Camlann” had to be remains.
Beannachtaí na Nollag!
The BBC News website Christmas quiz is starting.
The teaser is:
Well, for free, that’s Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve, from the collection in the Warsaw National Gallery.
There are two obvious connections for that picture:
1. It is dated from 1512 — which makes a nice quincentenary coming up.
2. Malcolm has never understood Eve’s pose there, rubbing the apple to her cheek. It couldn’t be an allusion to putting-the-shot for London’s Olympic year, could it?
Now Malcolm spent two good years in Bury St Edmunds. A decent little county town (when East and West Suffolk had separate entities). One always knew which way the wind blew. In a wintery northerly, all one got was the sugar-beet factory. A southerly in summer, with the windows open, was a delight — straight from the Greene King brewery.
Since when Malcolm has always had a hanker for Abbot.
So, two strikes up: a Greene King pub, and the promise of Abbot (at £3.45 a pint: not too outrageous for central London). What could go wrong?
That pint and an overpriced bottle of Campo Viejo (shared with the Lady in his Life) later, the ugly truth crept up on Malcolm. The Abbot was finished. So, too, were all the other cask ales. So, too, was the IPA (from what looked suspiciously like a pressurised tap). All that was on offer were those foreign things, all ending in -a or -i. That at 8:20 pm on a working evening.
And so, an early return to Redfellow Hovel.
According to Paul Goodman at ConHome we can safely ignore the Feltham and Heston by-election because it was The nothing-in-it-for-anyone by-election.
Since this is ConHome, here are a couple of “truths” they made earlier:
One might speculate over the nuanced distinction between “dropped” (which implies an accident or a disaster, like an inundation) and “fell” (which hints at something normal, like the gentle rain from heaven).
And, yes, this was a by-election ten days before the mid-winter snooze-fest, on a dank, dark working day. Anybody drawing heavy philosophical conclusions has that in mind. This is a constituency with a low turn-out — only 60% at the 2010 General Election, so down by a half. All the same, this still represents twenty-five times the size of the quota for your average opinion poll — which, too often, is given undue credence. On which note, it’s worth a check on what the opinion polls were predicting:
Close, and perhaps worth a cigarillo; but — taken to extremes, and beyond the usual confidence factors — also implying a continuing drift away from the Tories and LibDems.
The traditional view is that Labour votes early and late (which is why in a perfect Tory world, the polls would close at 6 p.m.) and only the dedicated leave centrally-heated evening comfort to head out to vote. But it was going wrong for the Tories long before that. Here’s Goodman again:
So no endorsement for David Cameron, although CCHQ will argue that his veto came too late to affect the postal votes, many of which had already been cast by last Friday. (They constituted over 20 per cent of the vote in 2010.)
Again, the traditional version has it that postal votes favour the Tories, so what happened at Brussels ought to be less material. Clearly neither the Tories nor the LibDems got their postal vote out. Anyway, the great Cameron snit seems to have had no great impact whatsoever.
Now let’s consider the past in Feltham and Heston. When Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp, this was a Tory seat. Here are the numbers since the “three-day week” Heath election:
Let’s graph that:
So we are heading back to 1997 and 2001:
Last Tuesday, Sam Coates of The Times penetrated the deepest recesses of national security (as if!) to discover that Ed Miliband was planning to be in the Feltham and Heston constituency today, Friday.
Tory Central’s junkyard whelp, Guido Fawkes was provoked to yelp:
One thing that did amuse was the assumption that Labour will win on Thursday’s Heathrow airport by-election.
and declare this great revelation:
An all round PR disaster.
To all of which Malcolm adds his own personal —
A team of Whitehall-controlled officials are to find and then intervene in the lives of Britain’s most troubled families, David Cameron has announced.
Oh, and 60% of the cost comes from your Council Tax. If your local council doesn’t cough up — or, more likely, can’t afford to with these enforced budget cuts — there’s no help from the government. “Whitehall-controlled” but town hall funded: nice balance of power, kudos and responsibility.
Then, once upon a time, there was stuff like this:
There are few areas of life today which are untouched by politically-correct nanny state interventionism. Measures have more often than not been introduced with the intention of protecting an individual or organisation against spurious legal claims in these days of the compensation culture – but it has meant that common sense has gone out of the window and people left unable to do do their jobs effectively…
David Cameron has today rounded on this in a Sunday Express interview and bemoaned the “total death of discretion and common sense”.
All of which, naturally, fulfils Cameron’s commitment:
“Not nanny-state, some bureaucratic system telling parents what to do.
“Just thoughtful, sensible, practical and modern support to help families with the issues they face.”
It must be a tough job, steering a diktat through one’s prior statements.