Sunday, October 04, 2015

Autumn clean. The sweater shelf.


As for yesterday's match ... (Australia won) ... I'd argue that England didn't play badly. They followed their game plan & threw themselves into the task. The problem was simple : they were outclassed.

Several things became clear as the match unfolded:

One: as Iain Sinclair argued some time ago, the England Rugby team & co. operate like a bunch of accountants. The slavish following of game plans, stats, etc. produces the kind of percentage rugby which is vulnerable to flair & the unpredictable. For instance, last week, when Wales were forced into rejigging their positions due to injuries.

Two: they lack ball skills. Notice the number of times the ball went loose & an Australian was able to gather, flick, or juggle & keep up the momentum. Also the number of turn overs.

Three: an inability to notice & respond to the moment. How, by contrast, Australia kept looking left & right behind a ruck or maul. Why just keep plunging on in one direction? Shake it up a bit.

Four: the weight of expectation. Here I blame the pressure exerted upon the team by the Media & the Corporates. I read with interest the number of pundits predicting an England win. Really? Yet who would dare go the other way? Interests are so intricately bound up, which journalist would risk the perks, backhanders, & invites were they to go 'off message'? The ITV commentary was instructive in the way that every English mistake was spun to a positive until the last few minutes when the travesty became abundantly clear.

Five: much as I admire the Welsh pluck, it seems a long shot to imagine them beating Australia next week &/or going much further. The likes of Australia, New Zealand, SA, Fiji for that matter, have that extra gear. & I wouldn't rule out France - precisely because they can tear up the pre-match plans & improvise something there & then. Wales used to - & now & again do - but you sense it's been drilled out of them.

& to finish:

Q: what's the difference between England & a tea bag?

A: a tea bag stays in the cup longer.

(Thanks to our SA correspondent Kevin for that one).

Saturday, October 03, 2015






The Centre Keramis at La Louviere which is hosting the once-every-two-years Festival of Artist Books. A smaller show this year but plenty of interesting work all the same. As always I head for the scruffier productions & strike up conversations. It's always fascinating to see how people are working the space of the page & the volume itself. & the itch to make is palpable in the fingers. 

Getting back in the car I see an ominous red ticket slipped under the windscreen wiper. Damn it! A parking ticket for 16 euros - I'd (we'd) missed the blue rectangle sign. Really sneaky - anyone would assume that the parking lot was part of the museum itself. Confirmation if ever one needed that parking inspectors are destined for one of the lower rings of Hell. 


Only a few hours away from the much-awaited England:Australia show down. Unbelievably there's an invitation to go out for dinner - I mean really ... 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My copy arrived today.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Saturday in six movements ...







At half-time it was tempting to switch off the television & go up to bed. The signs were familiar - another dissolve into a penalty-driven game with Wales squandering chances through indiscipline & tiredness. However, I decided to see it through.

Then came the injuries & you began to wonder what happened if a team simply runs out of players. (Volunteers from the crowd?).

& then came the extraordinary minutes of magic. That try after a kick-through followed by a penalty kick virtually from the half way line. Gob-smacking.

While there have been more impressive games of rugby from the point of view of skill & running, this has to rank as one of the greatest Wales-England encounters in terms of sheer character. Effectively down to a 'B' team they pulled off a heroic victory.

Yes ... in the end the Biggar team won.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What now seems many years ago, I flirted with the idea of going into Law. (A degree in English Literature qualifies you for ... well, ...).

I dutifully sat in on a few days at Oxford Magistrates to get a 'feel' for the business & found what I saw more then enough to confirm my initial suspicions.

One morning, in particular, sticks in the memory. Two cases. The first was an unemployed man down from the Midlands, in search of work, who had been caught stealing a Boots sandwich (price about £1.50). His Defence said that it should be taken into consideration that he had not eaten a proper meal in over a week. He was found guilty - a fact he did not deny - & was handed a 6 month jail sentence.

The very next case involved a group of undergraduates who had caused wilful damage to college & public property (estimated at several thousand pounds) after a night of general drunkenness & debauchery. Their Defence read out testaments from their respective tutors of good behaviour plus - & this I remember with particular clarity - a request that it be taken into consideration that they were to leave on a skiing trip in a couple of days.

They were found guilty but issued a caution.

Today's allegations by Lord Ashcroft concerning David Cameron occasions such recollections. It is abundantly clear that there is one law for the rich & another for everyone else. Cameron's misbehaviour - should it be proven true - will be consigned to youthful misdemeanours. In any case, if what you get up to takes place on private estates who's to know? (& there's always a fat cheque from Daddy to right the wrongs). It's also worth adding that anyone who attended Public School in the 70s will have been aware of parties which got seriously out of hand. Either you were there or heard about it after. Occasionally someone was expelled. Halcyon days of 'experiment' is the euphemistic term.

As Zizek has pinpointed time & again, notice how the outcry masquerades astonishment. Did anyone seriously not know that such things went on? Really?

Naturally the Press will swoop upon the salacious allegations. Of far more damage is the Ashcroft non-Dom knowledge.

There's a pig in a poke.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A day spent listening to Liszt - a composer I've never had much time for (the usual prejudices).

However, today - a revelation. First, Argerich playing the first Piano Concerto (conductor: Abbado) & then Grimaud for the Piano Sonata in B minor. Both stunning.

The Sonata, in particular, is ear-opening & jaw-dropping: for all its scored permanence it sounds improvised. Inviting ridicule, I am reminded of Keith Jarrett's extended pieces - Bremen, Lausanne, the Köln Concert above all (the wild dynamics, the sudden shifts of mood, the percussive attack & massing of sonorities).  Several times I was expecting Grimaud to start yelping & crooning.

A piano being activated, explored, pummelled & caressed.

& then those last bars & the final chords. Messiaen! The 20th Century rings the door bell.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015