Monday, 9 August 2021

Philip Larkin reads Aubade

Philip Arthur Larkin, Hull University's librarian and one of the finest poets in the English language, was born on this day in 1922. To mark the occasion here's the man himself reading what is probably his greatest poem, a meditation on the "unresting", unrelenting approach each day of death. 

Yes, cheery stuff. But that was what he was like. And it takes a special sort of courage, I think, to stare down death like this, not to hide or dissemble or mythologise... just stare, stare at the "awful emptiness for ever" without flinching. It's a beautiful poem and that's another of Larkin's great strengths: making something memorable, and beautiful, out of something otherwise unutterably awful.


Saturday, 24 July 2021

A Northern Light

The chances of finding an article you've written published on the very day you're visiting the town in question must be pretty remote, I'd have thought. The chances of then seeing it while casually browsing in a newsagents are pretty low too, especially when it's tucked away on page 58!

We visit Ripon regularly and I'd often thought I ought to write about this small, overlooked part of Yorkshire. The cathedral hasn't got the scale and grandeur of nearby York Minster; Nidderdale is hardly known compared to neighbouring Wensleydale and Swaledale. 

But Ripon is a forgotten gem among English towns (a city, really, having a Royal Charter dating from the ninth century) and it deserves to be better known. Just not too much better known... after all, one its many charms is its tranquility. 

Anyway, if you fancy a read, here's the link:

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

It's Time...

What good does hate do? What good is punishment? 

If you haven't already watched Time by Jimmy McGovern and if you have ever wondered about such questions, if you've ever watched Porridge with Ronnie Barker and thought that prison is just a cosy comedy or that prisoners have it too good, thought hanging's too good for 'em, said they should be locked up and the key thrown away, wondered how drugs and knives get into high security prisons, wondered why knives and drugs get into high security prisons, if you're the Home Secretary or want to be or have been, or if you're a politician of any persuasion, if you're concerned about crime and genuinely interested in how it can be reduced, in how criminals should be dealt with, in how society ought to right the wrongs done to people, in short, if you're a thinking, feeling, human being, then watch this. 

It won't be easy. And there won't be any easy answers to any of the questions it raises. There can't be. Don't believe anyone, whoever they are, who says they know the answer and that the answer's easy. It isn't. 

But we sure as hell need to try and find it. 

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Diary: Welcome Back!

Everyone's making a big thing about the return of audiences, spectators, paying punters to concerts, matches, gigs and so on now that lockdown is finally easing. 

Personally, I've quite enjoyed hearing (and seeing) live music relayed via the internet or broadcast over the airwaves without the shuffling, coughing distraction of real people in the audience. I know, I know... they're needed, if only for their cash; they rarely bring cachĂ©. More often their behaviour ruins concerts with ill-timed sneezes and other outbursts, to say nothing of the competitive 'who can be first off the blocks' clapping, which means the applause shatters the magic silence at the end of the music when the performance casts its mystic spell. 

I know people want to show their appreciation. Orchestras have been doing it to each other (and to soloists) at the end of their behind-closed-doors live performances. Just not in the nanosecond of silence once the last note has been played. And I know people (sometimes) can't help coughing. But you never see (or hear) members of the orchestra (or choir) doing it, do you? Even when they've got several hundred bars rest in which to sit in silence (and sit still)... listening.

Because that's what they're doing. Listening. And it's not, on the whole, what the majority of audiences do. Of course, they hear the music. But they're flicking through their programmes or ferreting through their handbags, unwrapping sweets. And coughing. Personally, I'd make the whole bloody lot of them submit to a thorough medical before letting them through the door!

In other news, things just get odder and odder. We have a serial adulterer and liar at the ship of state's helm, a cabinet of (at best) curiosities and, at worst, inanities. And now we have an heir to throne thanking... tabloid newspapers?

Of course, the Bashir affair is a disgrace. Quite how the man was ever re-employed by the BBC is a mystery. And the cover-up and scapegoating of whistle-blowers is, rightly, being called a scandal. 

But... but... I'm at a loss to know what Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit-hole could possibly see the tabloids, which did nothing but hound Diana for years both before and after the Panorama interview, suddenly becoming the good guys in this sad, sad story.

What next? Dominic Cumming's coming back to tell us all he was the good guy all along?

Watch this space! That particular shit-show is on Wednesday. 

And talking of morals, my book on Moral Philosophy is free to download this coming week (Monday-Friday). So, if you know anyone doing, or thinking of doing, 'A' level RE, spread the word!


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