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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Quiz Questions (12)

Here are four very mixed quiz questions just for fun! The picture above might help you with one of the answers.
1) Who was the ancient Greek goddess of Victory?
2) Who was the leader of the wolf pack in The Jungle Book?
3) Of which best-selling book is this the opening sentence?

Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: "Have they discovered evolution yet?" 4) From which book was the name Starbuck taken and used by the coffee-shop chain?

Answers are now given in the comments!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Sonny Update (2)

Sonny has begun his course of chemotherapy and so far it has gone without a hitch. It is expected that he will begin to feel the bad effects in a few days but there is a possibility he could spend a few days at home starting on Christmas day.
The staff at Great Ormond Street continue to show a dedication beyond what one would have thought possible; he has a strong bond with many of the nursing staff and doctors and has a good understanding of what is happening to him.
The Supporting Sonny Through Lymphoma Group on Facebook now has approaching 300 members. Thanks to the bloggers who have joined. (By the way, a quick way to stop notifications coming as an email every time something is posted to the group is to click on 'Edit Settings' on the top right hand of the group page and take the tick out of the box which says 'Email notifications to...').
In the picture above Sonny is playing a guitar given to him by the Great Ormond Street charity. Last night four burly men from the London Fire Brigade came into the room with sacks of presents for him to choose from. He chose a Teddy Bear.
The family continue to be bowled over by the generosity shown to Sonny and to all of us.
May you have a peaceful and healthy Christmas, New Year and whatever else you may celebrate!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Spotlight on a Website (3):

TED Ideas Worth Spreading is a free website that exists to spread knowledge by posting short talks from experts in all sorts of fields. The videos range from about three minutes to 20 minutes in length and are usually totally absorbing. I try to listen to at least one every day.
It might sound rather dull; if it does that's my fault because the range of topics is far-reaching and the speakers, always in front of a live audience, are at the peak of their field of expertise. Here are some I've watched recently:
  • Malcolm Gladwell: On Spaghetti Sauce. Recorded in 2004, business-based but well worth watching.
  • Seth Godin: Hilarious talk from 2006 called 'This Is Broken' 
  • Tim Birkhead: On the early birdwatchers. Suprisingly attention-grabbing.
  • Julia Sweeney: On letting go of God. Comedienne being deeply thought-provoking.
  • Tan Le: A headset that reads your brainwaves. 'nuff said?
Have a search and find your own favourites and let me know what you find at

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sonny Update (1)

Sonny asked me to paint him a picture so here it is. I copied it from a children's book but he loves it and it's in his hospital room. He has been feeling better these last couple of days but the chemotherapy starts in earnest next week and it will inevitably make him very unwell.
Today he met Mickey and Minnie!

Saturday, 11 December 2010


This is my five-year-old grandson, Sonny. He is one of the most delightful people I have ever met. He is kind, friendly, chatty, funny and very bright.
Sadly, he is currently in Great Ormond Street hospital in central London, one of the world's leading children's hospitals, having had a tumour removed and is now about to begin an agressive course of chemotherapy to defeat B-cell Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
Doctors are confident that he will make a full recovery but he faces a tough time ahead.
He is not expected to return to school for six months.
The most remarkable thing, to my mind is, the bravery of himself and his parents, my younger daughter Laura and son-in-law Lloyd. His Aunty Ruthie, my other daughter, gets over 70 responses to some of the update posts she puts on Facebook and she has started a Supporting Sonny through Lymphoma Group.
The huge network of support we have all received is overwhelming and I thank everone who has helped and sent good wishes.
I may be blogging a bit less in the short-term future.
We all love you Sonny!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Painting of the Month (12): December 2010, Banksy
Who is 'Banksy'? Nobody knows. Well, obviously someone does but the general public don't. (Actually he is Robert Banks from Bristol). He is a British grafitti artist who has taken the form to a new level.
This picture, informally, known as 'Banksy's Maid' is a piece of trompe l'oeil ('trick the eye') painted on a London wall and sinced removed or you might prefer the term 'destroyed by the Authorities'.
His stuff is usually humorous and often bitingly political and always very skilled and expertly executed. But he is a bad boy because he uses public spaces - you generally don't see his work hanging in galleries.
He is a people's artist in the truest sense of the word.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Quiz Question (11): Mother Goose

(I have recycled this question from my previous blog in 2006, because it created a lot of interest at the time. It would therefore be easy to cheat by looking at that blog and it would be easy to find the answer by Googling these lines anyway. But you wouldn't do that, would you?)

Can you complete this children's rhyme with the 'literary' last line?

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And .......?

In the unlikely event of no-one getting the correct answer I will post it in the comments in a few days!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Naming of Parts by Henry Reed

Henry Reed

This is one of my all-time favourite poems. It was written in 1942 during the War and it has various ways of being interpreted. I feel that there are two voices speaking. The first one is an army instructor, rather drily and somewhat sarcastically putting some new conscripts through their paces in learning about a particular weapon and the second voice is that of a young recruit (which I have italicised).
The recruit’s mind is wandering as he notices all the signs of spring-time around him. His mind is doing what a young man’s mind will do in spring-time and everything he is thinking has a secondary sexual connotation. The more you read it the more of these hints will be picked up. (‘Cocking bolt’, ‘we can rapidly slide it backwards and forwards’, ‘assaulting and fumbling’ and so on).
Henry Reed has not used punctuation to distinguish the two voices and make our job easier but it is clear what he intends. Rather clever don’t you think?

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
     And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
   Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
   Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
   They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance, Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards
and forwards,
   For today we have naming of parts.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Van Morrison: Sweet Thing
Sweet Thing
(Click on the above to listen. Open another window if you want to listen and follow the lyrics!))
And I will stroll the merry way
And jump the hedges first
And I will drink the clear
Clean water for to quench my thirst
And I shall watch the ferry-boats
And they'll get high
On a bluer ocean
Against tomorrow's sky
And I will never grow so old again
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I shall drive my chariot
Down your streets and cry
'Hey, it's me, I'm dynamite
And I don't know why'
And you shall take me strongly
In your arms again
And I will not remember
That I ever felt the pain.
We shall walk and talk
In gardens all misty and wet with rain
And I will never, never, never
Grow so old again.
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky
And count the stars
That's shining in your eye
Just to dig it all an' not to wonder
That's just fine
And I'll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines
And we will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again.
Oh sweet thing, sweet thing
Sugar-baby with your champagne eyes
And your saint-like smile....

Van Morrison has a reputation as a grumpy old curmudgeon but with a body of work like he has nobody could seriously doubt his commitment to his art. Ever the contrary one, he say's 'it's just a job'! If you still doubt my word listen to 'Into The Mystic'.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Spotlight on a Website (2):

Wolframalpha is a brilliant site for nerdy lovers of trivia. So obviously not me then. However if you pop over to take a look you will end up being fascinated. Possibly.
The link I have made is to the 'examples' page where you can see lots of the kind of thing at which this site excels.
For example you can enter the date of your birth to learn lots about that day (sunrise, sunset, phase of the moon, day of the week, famous anniversaries etc) but that's just a small part of what you could find out.
Here are some examples of what other stuff is there:
If you click on 'Food and Nutrition' you can enter any amount and type of food and you will get a comprehensive breakdown of it's nutritional value; and when I say comprehensive I mean really comprehensive.
If you click on 'Colors' (sorry, fellow-Brits, it's US spellings there) you could enter any colour and get a complete analysis of it's properties including it's complimentaries, it's wavelength(!), how it's mixed and it's HTML values.
Other topics include Health & Medicine, Weather, Money & Finance, Places & Geography, Music, Education, Physics and loads of other nerdy stuff.
Have fun and report back here!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Painting of the Month (11) November 2010: Pierre Bonnard

Pierre Bonard, Dining Room in the Country (1913)

I love the paintings of Pierre Bonnard. They radiate a sense of domestic bliss in sumptous colours. This is also the reason why some critics, while enjoying his work, place it only in the second rank of great paintings. But I don't care what critics think; these paintings make me feel good to contemplate them. He painted his wife many times in what has been described as a 'post-coital' situation. However I still see an innocent charm even in those pictures. (See below)
I think we should make our own minds up what we enjoy in works of art and not necessarily pay obesiance to high-minded critics!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

How I Blog Now

The Sweet Friends Award

I like the idea of Bloggers generating their own awards and nominating a selection of fellow Bloggers to receive them. Some might think it somewhat incestuous and almost self-congratulatory but it's great way of finding new blogs and hopefully expanding one's readership horizons.
If I enjoy your blog there's a good chance I will also like the blogs you favour!
Joanne Fox, whose writing-based, thoughtful blog is always a worthwhile read has been kind enough to nominate To Discover Ice with a 'Sweet Friends' award which I blushingly accept. (Bazza down on one knee, hand on heart, head bowed). Joanne appears to be aware of the need to make posts of a certain length which maintains the readers interest without having a soporific effect! 
So, one condition of this award is to communicate six facts about 'how I write', (Joanne is a writer). This about how I blog:
1) At this time I have my next four posts already written although order of publication is not yet decided.
2) I don't write much personal stuff, not because I am shy or private but because it bores me and I suppose it would bore you too!
3) I choose a subject or topic that interests me and then I research it. Usually it's a painting, a poem, a book, a person or a website.
4) I always write too much and then pare it down with some ruthless editing. I know attention spans are short these days!
5) I always wait at least two days before publishing something I have written; sometimes when I return to it, I don't like it and have to make changes.
6) If you blog/write for yourself first then others might enjoy it too because it will be sincere.
Here then are my six nominees. I have chosen them because they are blogs I read that I don't think get as much traffic as they deserve:
1) An Evolution of Knowledge Stephen in Sydney, Australia doesn't post often but always says something of interest.
2) The Snee Rebecca(?) puts so much effort into her amusing posts that she must be retired/unemployed!
3) English Buildings Philip Wilkinson is an author specialisng in architecture and writes very informative posts about interesting aspect of buildings in (mainly) the south of England.
4) Sagan's Brain "Skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility". Hundreds of followers, few commenters. Great science blog. You may have to be a nerd!
5) Hedgeland Tales Excellent photos of wild birds (no, Sir Tom!) located in Peterborough, England.
6) Belgian Beers  "All about Belgian Beers. Belgian Beer Bars. Belgian Beer Breweries. A discovery of the many Belgian Beers. In a nutshell Belgium and Belgian Beers. Cheers!" Nothing more to say.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

My Heroes (31): Kathryn Wiliams

Kathryn Williams

Kathryn Williams is an English folk-singer/songwriter who was born in Liverpool in 1974. She has a fragile, gentle singing style and makes hauntingly lovely acoustic recordings. My favourite is 'Relations' a collection of cover versions from 2004. You can hear her hard-to-beat live version of Leonard Cohen's much recorded 'Hallelujah' here. She often collaborates with Neil McColl (Kirsty's brother, Ewan's son). Here is their single ‘Come With Me Darling’.
 I love the fact that she is so natural, not show-bizzy or glamorous. I don't suppose she will ever get the proper acclaim that she deserves.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

How to Get Rich Quickly
Part One: In this part we will be explaining how you can get rich very quickly. Professor Wisemouth will be here to give you all the details that we know you are anxiously waiting for. In Part Two we will have a look back at Part One and examine how things will develop in the second part with a preview of Part Three when the real secrets will be revealed. So, let’s have a quick look back at part one; we have shown how the programme will be laid out and previewed the rest of the show. Please join us after this message from our sponsors.

Part Two: Welcome to Part Two. In Part One we introduced you to the show’s format and told you about Part Two. In Part Three the real secrets will be revealed. Let’s have a quick preview of that now. Part Three will look back at the programme so far and Professor Wisemouth will be here to tell all. Please join us after the break for the final part.

Part Three: Welcome back. In Part One we told you about Professor Wisemouth and introduced the layout of parts two and three. In Part Two we recapped on what we have learned so far and looked forward to part three. Well that’s all we have time for this week but please join us next week when Professor Wisemouth will be revealing the little known secrets of getting rich quickly. Here’s a sneak preview....
Don't you just hate the way they make documentary programmes these days?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

First in a New Series, Spotlight on a Website (1):

Delicious is a Social Bookmarking site that I waste spend a lot of time at. To be absolutely honest I am not quite sure exactly how it works but I am sure that I like it. This from their site:
"Delicious is a Social Bookmarking service, which means you can save all your bookmarks online, share them with other people, and see what other people are bookmarking. It also means that we can show you the most popular bookmarks being saved right now across many areas of interest. In addition, our search and tagging tools help you keep track of your entire bookmark collection and find tasty new bookmarks from people like you."
What it means to me is access to a selection of new and interesting websites. There is quite an emphasis on technical stuff such as software writing and logo design but also humour and satire. Here are some examples of what I found on my last visit recently:
1) 20 Best Free Calligraphy Fonts for Download from
2) Take Your Web Designs to the Next Level from
3) 8 Awesome Websites to Take Free College Courses Online from
4) Brain Teasers & Optical Illusions at
5)  Free Clipart from the Open Library at
Now go and have some fun and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

How I l Live Now by Meg Rosoff

I don't do much by way of book reviews but I am happy to post this one. I bought this book through a recommendation from a respected source but I very nearly didn't.
The cover of the edition I got is shown on the left; you can see that it wouldn't necessarily appeal to a middle-aged man.
However after dipping in and reading a few pages I was intrigued. I'm glad I did because it turned out to be not at all what I expected. It's hard to categorise and I won't attempt to because that might become a spolier. It is about a fifteen year old girl but even the cover blurb steers you in the wrong direction but humour, strong characterisation and storyline  takes you to a place that you are not expecting to go. It's many themes include displacement, starvation, getting by in a crisis and examining a possible future. My one crticism is that I wish it was about 50 pages longer allowing some of the themes to become more developed.
I would recommend the book to teenage girls but I would equally to anyone who simply enjoys good writing.
In his book How to Write a Novel, John Braine said 'write what you know' and Meg Rosoff's book is testament to that dictum as a brief biographical enquiry revealed. I'm off to buy the next one at the weekend!
Meg Rosoff (photo by Helen Giles)

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Painting of the Month (10) October 2010: Géricault's 'Raft of the Medusa'

The Raft of the Medusa  Théodore Géricault 1818-19
If you are not familiar with this painting it is probably not what you might think it is at first glance. It looks like a typical 'history painting', a genre that usually depicts great events from history often biblical, mythical or classical subjects.
However, this picture depicts an event that happened just two years before it was painted. The Medusa was a French vessel that sank just off the coast of what is now Mauritania creating a public scandal because it's captain was incompetent and the whole event reflected badly on the newly re-installed monarchy.
We see the vessel after 13 days at sea. Only 15 of the 147 persons on the raft have survived. They have evaded death by starvation, madness, dehydration and cannibalism!
The survivors have just sighted the vessel that will rescue them. Meanwhile, in the foreground, people are dying.
Gericault (pronounced Zherico) acheived the fame that he craved because of this picture but, sadly, he died at the age of 32.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

My Heroes 1 to 30

I have made links to the latest My Heroes in this Blog (numbers 23 to 30) and 21 & 22 from my previous Blog.

(21) June Tabor (Scroll down to 23 Nov 2006)
(22) Bob Dylan (Scroll down to 28 Nov 2006)
(23) John Gribbin
(24) The Everly Brothers
(25) Walter Matthau
(26) Richard Buckminster Fuller
(27) Vincent van Gogh
(28) Isaac Abeniz
(29) Madeleine Peyroux
(30) John Betjeman

The first twenty can be found here.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Quiz Question (10 ): Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad first published in book form in 1902. It tells the story using a device known as a frame: one, unnamed, character is relating a story told through another narrator, while the two of them are waiting in a ship anchored in the Thames Estuary. The book is very well written and, incredibly, Conrad is writting in his third language, English. His first two were Polish and French. His skill with words is nonetheless amazing, as he tells the tale of a company agent who steams three hundred miles up an African river to seek a rogue company man. The themes of the book are the evils of imperialism and an examination of many forms of 'darkness', both physical and mental.

What famous Oscar-winning film was based on this story?
Someone got the answer straightaway! Check the comments and see if you were correct!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

My Heroes (30): John Betjeman

Sir John Betjeman's statue at St Pancras station, London
John Betjeman was knighted in 1969 and made British Poet Laureate, when Cecil Day-Lewis died in 1972, until his own death in 1984. His image was always that of an avuncular cuddly eccentric, slightly bumbling and bewildered and he did nothing to discourage that image of himself.
He was often not highly regarded by critics but was always very popular with the public.
Isn't that frequently the case? His subject matter was rooted in the here and now rather than classical subjects. He was an admirer of architecture and nature.
He famously popularised suburbia as 'Metroland', named after the new suburbs that appeared around London between the wars due to the expansion of the Metropolitan Railway.
Here is one of my personal favourites of his poems.
I really enjoy the evocation of 1930's English middle-class society and I should say, for those under 40 or not British, that Hillman, Rover & Austin were makes of automobile.
I have not the faintest idea what 'her father's euonymus' was!

Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament – you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summerhouse, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

This is from BBC News, April 2007:
The woman who inspired one of Sir John Betjeman's most famous poems has died at the age of 92.
Joan Jackson was immortalised in print as Miss J Hunter Dunn in Sir John's 1941 poem, A Subaltern's Love Song.
Mrs Jackson, who first met Sir John while working at the Ministry of Information in the 1930s, died at a London nursing home last week.
Her son, Edward, said: "She never said she was proud to be his muse but she did not consider it a joke."
John Betjeman 1906-1984
He added: "She just said that John was a nice man."
Joan Jackson the 'muse' for Betjeman's Joan Hunter Dunn

Alas the whole poem was Betjeman's fantasy from afar. I recall him appearing on a chat show as a cheerful old man like a grandfather everyone would love to have and he was asked if he had any regrets in life: " Yes", he replied "I never had enough sex."

Monday, 13 September 2010

Quiz Question (9): Cinema Questions

A change of subject this time. Instead of the usual literature questions here are a couple of cinematic ones:
1) Who was the first actor to portray Hannibal ("I'm having an old friend for dinner") Lecter  on screen?
2) Who played 'Iris' the 12 year old street-kid in Taxi Driver?
Answers will be posted in 'Comments' a few days.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Painting of the Month (9) September 2010: Vermeer

Johannes (Jan) Vermeer, The Milkmaid, c 1650
This lovely painting is so typically Dutch. The milkmaid is not a grand lady but is as dignified as any queen. It is technically a masterpiece. The handling of light is beguiling and the crumbly bread makes one long to take a piece!
Look closely at some of the details. Press Ctrl and + together to enlarge the picture and look for the nail in the back wall casting a tiny shadow; an exquisite piece of detail. Also find the broken piece of glass in the window and check out the brass lamp hanging behind the basket on the wall, the surface quality of which is superb.
The subject is viewed from a low-level giving her a sturdiness and a slightly squat look. Her arms are strong and she is completely unselfconcious. The texture of every surface is tenderly rendered in a homage to the 'everyday' scene. I can look right 'into' this picture for a long time a feel a wonderful peace.
It's in the Rijksmusem in Amsterdam where it is rightly one of the main attractions. 

Monday, 30 August 2010

Saucy British Seaside Postcards

Donald McGill 1875-1962
There is a vein of humour within British comedy which, in the tradition of old-time Music Hall, trades upon the use of 'cheeky' or risque laughs. In the same way that people like the late Benny Hill would raise a laugh without quite being outrageous. One of the most enduring features of this is the seaside post card and it's most famous exponent was Donald McGill. He worked in the industry from 1904 until his death in 1962. He had already prepared the next seasons postcards for 1963. In 1953 thousands of his cards were seized in police raids on shops on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere and he was prosecuted and fined £50.
A typical post-war saucy British seaside postcard
Another prolific artist was Sunny Pedro
Meanwhile the French idea of a saucy postcard was quite different to the British version!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Harry Graham

Harry Graham  (Picture courtesy of BBC)
Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes was published under a pseudonym in 1898 in England. It was ahead of it's time in some ways but can be seen as a a part of the tradition of Lewis Carol, Edward Lear and W S Gilbert (the wordsmith half of Gilbert & Sullivan).
Here's a couple of examples of his work:

A window-cleaner in our street
Who fell (five storeys) at my feet
Impaled himself on my umbrella.
I said: "Come, come, you careless fella!
If my umbrella had been shut
You might have landed on my nut!"

Quite Fun
My son Augustus, in the street, one day,
Was feeling quite exceptionally merry.
A stranger asked him: "Can you show me, pray,
The quickest way to Brompton Cemetery?"
"The quickest way? You bet I can!" said Gus,
And pushed the fellow underneath a bus.
Whatever people say about my son,
He does enjoy his little bit of fun.

He was by all accounts a very affable and amiable chap so his poems were certainly intended to be humorous rather than offensive. OK, they don't scan very well and have unsophisticated rhyming schemes (to say the least) but I think they're fun.
Here's another one:

When Grandmamma fell off the boat,
And couldn’t swim, and wouldn’t float,
Maria just sat by and smiled -
I almost could have slapped the child!

Apparently the 1901 New York edition is quite collectable.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

My Heroes (29): Madeleine Peyroux

I think Madelaine Peyroux is a jazz and blues singer who tends to divide opinion. She obviously sounds like Billy Holiday; some say she is just a pale imitation but I think she a genuine article. Listen to her singing Careless Love and judge for yourself.
She grew up in Brooklyn, New York but by the age of sixteen she was singing for her supper in Paris and toured around Europe honing her craft and living by 'passing the hat'. Among her influences she cites Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.
I really like her version of Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. She also covered Cohen's 'Dance Me To The End Of Time'.
If she is an 'acquired taste' then I have that taste and I like it!

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Guildhall at Thaxted, Essex

Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Guildhall at Thaxted in Essex, England is still in active use today. The location was chosen in 1390 by the Guild of Cutlers because Thaxted was famous for production of cutlery until about 1550. With the  rise of the Industrial Revolution Sheffield, in Yorkshire, become the world-renowned centre of cutlery manufacture.
The open lower floor is paved was used as a market place.
The building is wooden-framed and is in a good conditon having been restored after it fell into decay when the years of wealth production ended for Thaxted. The small country town retains a chocolate-box appearance and is a popular destination for tourists.
The church in the background was also began over six hundred years ago and has the tallest stone spire in the county.

This post was inspired by my regular visits to the writer Philp Wilkinson's English Buildings blog. I recommend a visit!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

On The Rocks

On The Rocks are the University of Oregon's acapella men's choir and they are great entertainment.
They are very funny, hugely entertaining and, best of all, talented singers. To watch an amateur recording with poor quality sound of Bad Romance, the Lady Gaga song, listen here. I think is the best thing they do. I watch it any time I need cheering up!
9th April 2011update. This post now links to an alternative but not-as-good-but-still-OK version because the original was removed by YouTube for a 'violation of user terms' after nearly seven million (yes, 7,000,000) hits!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Quiz Question (8): Two Book Titles

(1)What are the famous words that complete this piece and provide a book title?
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know......

(2) In 1961 Leon Uris published Mila 18 and caused Simon & Schuster to change the name of a book they were about to publish because they thought that two books with '18' in the title in the same year was one too many.
What was the new title of the book, which became a best-seller, whose title has become a part of the English language?
The photograph might be a clue to one of the questions!
The answers have now been posted. Check and see if you were right!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Painting of the Month (8) August 2010: Cezanne

Mont Sainte-Victoire 1900
You may be aware if you have regularly read my blogs that I am a great admirer of Paul Cezanne. He painted Mont Sainte-Victoire  endlessly throughout his life, yet he always found something new to say each time.

Mont Sainte-Victoire  1885
Imagine my delight when, several years ago, I was on a coach journey from Marseilles, on France's Mediterranean coast, inland to Aix-en-Provence when, half-asleep, I viewed the unmistakeable (to me) outline of Mont Saint-Victoire. I had no idea I was anywhere near to it. I was suddenly wide awake and tapped my wife on the shoulder and pointed to the mountain. I was unable to speak with emotion and couldn't get the words out - poor Mrs Bazza was unimpressed at being woken up!
But look at this next version. Isn't it magical?

Mont Sainte-Victoire 1882-5
Picasso had called Cezanne "the Master of us all", and it is tempting to see a precursor of cubism in the way the surface is beginning to be broken up into flat shapes without conventional perspective. Of course, this may be 'reading in' with a backward look.
Remember that you can view the pictures better if you double click them.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

My Heroes (28): Isaac Abeniz

Isaac Albeniz 1860 -1909
Isaac Albeniz was a child prodigy having been taught to play the piano by his sister at age of one year! If we are to believe the stories he ran away and travelled extensively in South and North America from Buenes Aries to Uruguay and as far as San Francisco. He was a gifted pianist and composer and his most famous legacy is probably the Iberia Suite, which musically describes many provinces of Spain, from which the beatiful 'Granada' comes. Listen to it here.
Much of Albeniz's work has been very successfully transcribed for the guitar. If you want to hear the guitar version it's here.
Finally, one piece of music that I listen to over and again through the years is his 'Tango in D' opus 165, from the Espanola Suite. It, too, works well for the guitar.
Look at that fabulous photograph - don't try to tell me that Albeniz was not a romantic!
Incidentally there are much better recordings available but they're not on YouTube.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Untitled poem by Paul Smith

I enjoy the tanka and haiku poetry of Paul Smith at Paper Moon. This form of verse is deceptive; it looks easy to write but is, in fact, very difficult. There is great skill in capturing a moment with a limited number of words:
as if it was
the only flower
that ever bloomed
she stoops to touch
a daisy

If you enjoy this there is a lot more at Paper Moon. You might also enjoy the photographs and words of Joanne Rose.