Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I really thought I had it made.  Last week I paid a rare visit to Marks and Spencer in a quest to kit myself out for the coming winter.  In keeping with tradition, I went for the tried and tested Blue Harbour trousers and rugby shirt in a fetching shade of fawn;  all topped off by a new pair of Nike Air trainers in darkish blue, the white laces of which required changing to black in order take some of the glare of the startling white away from the predominantly blue background.

This adventure was followed up the day after by a visit to my stylist, Chris of Larkfield, whose skill and dexterity in reshaping my coiffure were tested to the limit.  Sharp is hardly the word for the result - more `edgy.`  So that was me done......that is until over the weekend I noticed that prominent figures such as politicians, footballers, management types, BBC presenters, all seemed to have a different `presentation` to that which I had just acquired.

I wondered what the problem might be when suddenly I twigged that there was something missing in my outward appearance and if I was to maintain my status as a fashion icon, a style guru, then I might need to make a few changes after all.   So I`m seriously thinking about growing a beard, wearing open necked shirts, perhaps a scruffy jacket and a big handbag, getting the odd tattoo and implanting random bits of metal on assorted areas of my body. 

But most of all I need to get into the habit of carrying a cardboard coffee cup around at an angle parallel to the ground and leave people guessing whether there really is any coffee in it or whether it`s yet another clever but subtle fashion accessory. And last but not least, I need a name-tag on the end of a bit of string so I know who I am, even if no-one else does.

Problem is that, if I go to all that trouble, I suspect I might feel a complete twonk, even though I might have the comfort of knowing that I will be right up there with the good taste and style of modern day life.   

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I was sorry to hear of Brian Sewell`s passing yesterday at the age of 84 following a losing battle with cancer.   He was without doubt `interesting` but perhaps perception of him was too often limited by his rather superior, almost regal manner of speaking.  It was, however,  probably the least `interesting` aspect of a very `interesting` life.

I won`t go on about the many facets of his 84 years - others have done that in abundance - but there are a couple of things that I feel are worth mentioning here.   The first is his parentage which, it turns out, included the composer Peter Warlock as his biological father, who died before Sewell was born.  Warlock himself was `interesting` and is perhaps best remembered, by me at least, for his  beguiling Capriol Suite.

Sewell counted among his friends Anthony Blunt, Roy Strong, Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud  and he was a seriously accomplished and respected art historian and critic.   And it is in this area that he is perhaps remembered as being harshly critical, often waspish but unfailingly honest as a judge of artists and their work.  He lampooned the choice of Liverpool as European Capital of Culture in 2008;  he thought that Tracey Emin was `the Jade Goody of art;` and Banksy was ` a complete clown.`

He loved dogs and motor cars in equal measure but for me his greatest gift to the modern world was to condemn pretty much everything about modern art as pretentious tosh, not worthy of a second glance.   Maybe there was much about Brian Sewell to disagree with or to find uncomfortable, but in his rejection of modern art and `artists` he was not only spot on in his assessment but also voicing the feelings of a large section of the population, especially those provincials, like me, who want no truck with any form of metropolitan affectation.

He will be missed.

Friday, September 18, 2015


It seems a long time ago now since Britain was landed with a bill by the EU as a result of them levying a surcharge based on the size of the economies of member countries.   Britain`s bill amounted to £1.7 billion - or £17,000,000,000 in plain language.   At the time, Dave Cameron said he was `downright angry` at this revised membership contribution and the public would find it `totally unacceptable.` He wasn`t wrong.

It now transpires that, despite those strident protestations, the surcharge has now been paid - quietly and unobtrusively - in two instalments;  one in July and the other at the beginning of this month.  Following frantic `negotiations` at the time - about a year ago now - the EU extended the deadline for payment but did not reduce the sum, despite George Osborne claiming to have halved it in talks with Brussels.  However, a Commons Treasury Report published earlier this year found that the Chancellor`s claim `was not supported by the facts.`

And so once again, the `value for money` of Britain`s membership of the EU comes into question.  Perhaps we are entitled to receive a better service from Brussels for the £58 million we pay them each and every day, never mind the extraordinary `surcharge` we have just coughed up.   Europe is in the throes of one of the major refugee crises and the response from the `United Nations of Europe` has been bewilderingly ineffective.  

On Tuesday of this week Brussels announced that the heads of EU Governments would hold `an emergency summit` to discuss the refugee issue;  however, that `emergency meeting` will not take place until next Tuesday.  They clearly have a strange idea of `emergency` and even then they will just sit around and talk about it against the backdrop whereby any sense of `unity` among the EU countries is rapidly being shown up for the illusion it really is.

So we have been treated to yet another bout of smoke and mirrors not only by the EU but also by Dave and George, the UK`s very own illusionist double act, who have behaved dishonourably by throwing yet more taxpayers cash at this failed `project.`   As for the EU, it seems they might have a chat about things all in good time, which reminds me that in Cornwall things get done dreckly - like mañana only slower. Surely we have a right to expect better from our elected leaders.   Oh, OK then, perhaps not.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Just over the border in Maidstone, it seems it`s considered sacrilegious to suggest any form of disenchantment with their former MP, Ann Widecombe.  I imagine the same goes for the current incumbent, one Helen Grant, who rose without trace and then shot to obscurity following her forgettable foray into the Ministerial world. Maybe the electors of Maidstone are just easily pleased.

Now, on Monday evening the audience at the Theatre Royal in Windsor were treated to "An Evening with Ann Widdecombe" to head up the Royal Windsor Arts Festival.  She told the captive audience of `her life journey and the people that influenced her along the way` and she relived her political career including being in the Shadow Cabinet in the 1990s.`  

And in the course of that entertainment for the good folk of Windsor, she confessed that, "I`m afraid David Cameron won`t have me in the House of Lords."  (Cue audience chortles, I imagine.)  La Widdecombe is now 67 and since turning it in as an MP, has pursued a career which has included TV reality `star,` novelist and panto regular, the latter experience giving her the chance to conclude that "If I can`t dress up in ermine, I might as well dress up as a fairy godmother."

Which says much about her presumed entitlement based on her own notion that she has become a national treasure; whereas in reality we`re simply left to decide whether her disappointment is greater than that of our own that she is still treading the boards of her own self-delusion.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Well, another Monday has arrived.  I`m pretty sure I don`t like Mondays - most of them seem to be manic but the weekend has given us plenty to ponder.

For me one of the most troubling reports  was the suggestion that, hidden among the countless migrants/refugees knocking on Europe`s doors, a whole load of them might actually be ISIS terrorists in disguise.   Now we have no way of knowing whether that`s true or not and I suppose we all want to assume it isn`t.   But even if that`s the case, the mere fact that this notion has been reported in the media might well provide ISIS HQ with food for thought.

"Seen this, Mohammed?  Some infidel is accusing us of smuggling our lads into Europe posing as genuine refugees.   Sounds like a good idea.  Let`s give it a go."

In other news, the frankly bizarre convulsions going on in the Labour Party show no signs of abating.   Jezza is putting his shadow cabinet together and he has promised (I think) to ensure that there are an equal number of women in it.  Good idea, very laudable, quite right, no problem with that.   But if he`s true to his inclusive principles I expect he`ll be looking to include representatives of other sections of our `society` as well.   

So far, he seems to have appointed at least one MP from an ethnic minority background but surely needs one or two or three or four to represent the LGBT world (I always worry about confusing that with BLT) possibly a dwarf or two, someone who`s ginger, another to give the baldist point of view and maybe, just maybe, someone who might be erring on the side of being sensible. 

Meanwhile, so far there`s no sign of a shadow appointment for the recently elected 30-year old Cat Smith, MP, who was one of Corbyn`s backers for the Leadership.  Having attended Cartmel College at Lancaster University where she graduated with a BA in Sociology and Gender Studies, she worked for Jezza as a policy officer for the British Association of Social Workers.   She identifies herself as "a Christian, socialist, feminist, republican and trade unionist" as well as identifying as bisexual and engaged to a man called Ben.

Just the kind of person we need in this brave new world - Cat, I mean, not the man called Ben.   On the other hand that might not be a bad idea either.......

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Today of all days, the well thumbed, 2,000 year old quotation from Roman courtier Gaius Petronius somehow seems entirely fitting.   Here it is:-

"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised.   I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing;  and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress whilst merely producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation."

And newly elected Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn`s first task will be to reorganize the Party and form a team to reflect his vision of how things should be.   He and his new Deputy, the Witchfinder General Tom Watson, will form an interesting left sided midfield with Corbyn the scheming playmaker  and Watson the battling, combative enforcer.

Now given the lack of support for Jezza among the Parliamentary Party, I suspect we`ll see the return of a kitchen cabinet made up of like minded individuals acting as a focus group for Corbyn`s policies and strategies.   As his first act following the Leadership announcement was to join a rally in support of the refugees, I think we can have a pretty informed guess as to who his kitchen cabinet might include.

The inescapable Benedict Cumberbatch, one-hit wonder Billy Bragg, queen luvvie Emma Thompson, mother hen Polly Toynbee and I quite expect Bob (`I don`t like Mondays`) Geldof to be incapable of resisting a jump onto Corbyn`s bandwagon.  Dave Cameron must think Christmas has come early and the LibDems, gathering in the local phone box might be harbouring dreams of escaping the bottom of their particular barrel.   Perhaps the most intriguing and -  for middle England Luddites like me - the most encouraging aspect is that Corbyn`s Eurosceptic credentials might add weight to the `Leave` campaign in the European Referendum.   I suspect Nige is waiting the phone call already.

Whatever happens, the interesting times in which we find ourselves are going to get a whole lot more interesting.  Much of it will be illusory, of course, but in the ranks of the Labour Party faithful, confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation might once more prove the wisdom of the Roman courtier`s assertion.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Two examples of loyalty today, both very different.  The first and most genuine is that of Her Majesty the Queen becoming the country`s longest serving monarch.  I remember as a callow youth hearing her declare that she would devote her life to serving the country and she has fulfilled that promise with great distinction.  

Now there are people who are decidedly anti-monarchy and whilst I would not go that far, I do have reservations about the number of royals, the hangers-on, the pomp and expensive circumstance;  indeed, I turned down an invitation to a Garden Party at Buck House simply because I didn`t want to go.  But I do not question the Queen`s loyalty and I wish her well on this historic milestone.

Also today we heard about and possibly saw Wayne Rooney become England`s top goalscorer in internationals when he slammed home a convenient penalty in the 2-0 win over Switzerland last evening.   But, whilst acknowledging the 50 goals he has now scored for his country, I`m reluctant to  congratulate him too warmly for a number of reasons. 

His record shows that he has scored just two goals in any major tournament since 2004 and has never scored in the knockout phase of any major tournament  The  goal he scored last year against Uruguay was a tap in and the one against Ukraine was a free header from all of six inches.   Now, 50 goals is 50 goals but it`s worth remembering that a good number of Rooney`s have been penalties and others have been against the likes of San Marino, Andorra, Estonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Belarus.   Sir Bobby Charlton he ain`t.

It also has to be said that, as the current captain of England he cuts a rather forlorn figure.  Not his fault of course, but one might expect our captain to represent the country with arguably a little more ambassadorial dignity than has so far been shown.   But coming to my second example of loyalty on this memorable day, I am reminded that Mr. Rooney, whilst admittedly still very young, pledged himself to the cause of Everton by much enthusiastic badge kissing and declaring himself to be "A Blue Forever."   Whereupon he promptly upped sticks, abandoned his avowed loyalty and left Goodison Park for the Evil Empire of Old Trafford.

I really do hope - probably more for his own sake than anything else - that Her Majesty might resist the urge to dub Rooney `Sir Wayne.`   It really doesn`t sound right and things that don`t sound right seldom are.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Been away for a week exploring the highways and byways of north Devon.   It`s an area we haven`t visited for a long time, so it was good to re-visit some places and find some new ones.   Probably the most `enjoyable` was the discovery of Selworthy which is just over the border into the part of Exmoor which lies in Somerset.   I had read about Selworthy over the years and seen pictures of what seemed to be an idyllic village, so I was keen to go there and see if it lived up to its billing as `one of the loveliest villages in England.`

I was not disappointed.   As my photo above shows, it sits on its hillside overlooking a patchwork valley with the great looming presence of Dunkery Beacon beyond.   The village itself, clustered around a verdant village green, consists of just seven old cottages with thatched roofs, latticed windows and gabled porches and was built in 1828 by Sir Thomas Acland as something of a model village to provide housing for the elderly and infirm of his Holnicote Estate.   We were fortunate to be there on a late summer evening with very few people around - a situation that might be quite unusual.

We struggled up through the nearby woods and out onto the open moor to reach Selworthy Beacon and enjoy spectacular views across to the Welsh coast.   If there was a downside to our week, it might have been the stress caused to this hapless driver in negotiating the perilous coastal single track lanes around Woody Bay with a 400 foot drop on one side guarded only by a flimsy fence; and also chancing my arm driving across a very narrow packhorse bridge at Brendon, which I thought halfway across I shouldn`t be attempting, but rather I should be using the adjoining ford.  You live and learn.

Anyway, it`s good to be home again and I suspect that my re-entry from the kind of escapism that last week brought will make it difficult to get back to my `usual` hard edged blogging.   Just give me a day or two to get back in to the `real world.`  It is real, isn`t it?