Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Didn't we have a loverly time...

We've come home, again. From - not to - Wales. It might not be the land of my fathers but it certainly feels like home (having lived not-that-far from the border for many years) and there's still a welcome in the hillsides. (And hillsides themselves are something of a novelty when you live in Lincolnshire!)

Anyway, in the manner of an awards ceremony, there a few people I'd like to thank.

First, the Welsh Assembly (or maybe the EU, or the local authorities or whoever is responsible for highway maintenance). Because - with the inevitable exceptions of those tiny, single-track local lanes that are little more than farm tracks - the roads we happened to drive along were wonderful, new, smooth, perfectly cambered, and clearly signposted. (And when you consider that signs in Wales are twice the size - having twice the number of words - that's quite an achievement.)

Ok, I know the principality (sorry, Welsh people, I know it should be 'kingdom' or maybe 'republic' but...) is small by comparison to England but, honestly, I've not had as much fun behind the wheel of a car on holiday since we last went to France. And no, I'm not being sarcastic. And, yes - I define 'fun' as a smooth, event-free and easy journey from A to B.

If that's not your idea of fun, there's plenty of the blind-bends-grass-in-the-middle-high-hedges-no-chance-of-stopping-close-your-eyes-keep-praying kind of roads as well. It's just that I didn't like them.

What I did like were the 'A' roads (and quite a few 'B' roads, too). They were wonderful.

I also liked Llandudno, and Conwy; Beaumaris, on Anglesey, and this little place with a long, long name...

And we enjoyed the beaches, too!

I'll tell you more about them tomorrow.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Yorkshire Day

It's Yorkshire Day and in honour of the county here's the national anthem as arranged by Yorkshireman Eric Fenby

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

All about that bass...

I like to kid myself I know a thing or two about singing. I've certainly been lucky enough to do plenty including appearing - several times - at the BBC Proms... though only in the chorus, not on me own; not filling the Royal Albert Hall with such a rich, deep, dark-chocolate rumbling of a voice that I'm sure people must've thought there was a tube-train clattering by or perhaps someone had turned the organ on by mistake.

Actually, it wouldn't have been a mistake. Because the organ WAS on on Sunday night in South Ken. It's part of Mahler's monumental Eighth Symphony - the so-called 'Symphony of a Thousand' because - if it doesn't quite need that number of performers, it certainly sounds like it!

And one of those performers was a bass with the best bass voice I've heard in ages. He's also got the best back-story of any singer I'm come across lately. Because despite coming from a family of gospel singers in Atlanta, Robinson shunned music and enrolled at The Citadel Military College in South Carolina with the intention of becoming an NFL football pro.

He didn't have a singing lesson until he was - wait - 30 years old, having left college (and football) and worked in corporate sales for a while.

Now in demand in opera houses all over the world, he is only talked of as an 'unlikely' superstar by those who haven't heard him.

So, go on. Hear him. Take a listen. It's a voice to die for or - in my case - to do a Mephistophelean pact for. It's everything a bass voice ought to be (and mine - a baritone if ever there was one - isn't). But, oh, I wish...

Monday, 23 July 2018

The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters

The Mighty Dead: Why Homer MattersThe Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson prize,' it says on the cover. All I can say is that 2014 must've been a stonking year if this book didn't even make the shortlist! I've seldom read a book that spreads itself so magisterially (and readably) over literary criticism, ancient history, linguistics, morality, poetry, psychology, sociology, and geography. It's in many ways a genre-busting book, containing autobiographical elements alongside insights into Homer, the world of the Ancient Greeks from the Steppe migrations right up to Chicago gang culture. Nothing seems out of place or forced into the narrative. Nicolson wears his learning as lightly as one of Helen's chiffon garments; the gold of his insights as delicately veneer-thin as a golden body image from a Mycenaean tomb. If this didn't win in 2014... what did?

View all my reviews

Thursday, 12 July 2018

My First Book of Quantum Physics

We were sent a copy of this book to review recently. And although we were mighty impressed with it, we haven't yet got round to reviewing it. So this book trailer couldn't have come at a better time, allowing us to share with you what we think is a fantastic resource without having to wait a moment longer.

One of Einstein's famous successors famously claimed that 'if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics' and I'm not going to gainsay Richard Feynman.

But what I AM going to say is that it's a fairly widely held belief that children sometimes have an instinctive grasp of things that adults find incomprehensible.

So give them this. Let's learn from them!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Dear Mrs May, here's what you won't do today...

Like most people (I suspect) I'm heartily sick of Brexit.

I didn't vote for it (although I'm not an unqualified fan of the EU and can see some merit in leaving) but remain happy - in our so-called democracy - to go by the decision of the (tiny) majority (which, I know, is a minority of the electorate but, well, they really should've gone out to vote, shouldn't they?).

Anyway, I'm sure it's possible to negotiate a smooth transition from the EU. And I'm also certain that one reason it's not happening is... the EU itself with its intransigent negotiating position designed to make it as hard and as unattractive as possible to prevent other countries considering it too.

But by far the biggest reason is the bl**dy Conservative party, the same bickering, back-stabbing bores that the EU referendum was supposed to silence. Not that it would've done. But that was Cameron's gamble. And what a lose-lose throw of the dice that was.

Because whatever happens, those same anti-EU bores will be able to claim the moral (or political) high ground. Leave empty handed? Or leave, with our hands well-and-truly tied in an EU knot? Obviously (they'd say) the negotiations were badly handled, or the EU wasn't playing fair, or Theresa May gave far too much away.

There's no pleasing them. Nothing - I'm fairly sure of it - will satisfy them. We're leaving the EU but that's not enough. We've got to leave on their terms - no matter how bad - or they'll still be kicking up one hell of a fuss.

So, here's a solution (should Mrs May be looking for one).

Sack 'em. Sack the lot of them. Sack the Cabinet's Brexit Bullsh**ters; de-select the rebel MPs. And start again with a party in favour of a sensibly negotiated settlement. Or even a party in favour of abandoning Brexit altogether.

Yes, that'll mean no Tory or Labour, no Left or Right. Just an 'in' and maybe a couple of 'outs' (and who knows, perhaps a 'shake-it-all-about?).

Then we could have a General Election and the winner gets to set the EU Agenda.

It won't happen, of course. In spite of the fact that this is the biggest single crisis facing the country, the biggest decision in a generation the consequences of which are going to be felt for decades to come, they'll continue trying to play their political games, they'll continue their po-faced posturing and political back-biting.

Because that's just what they do.

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