Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Art of Management

Watched The Damned United today, without really intending to. A bit of background: the film is about Brian Clough's ill-fated 44 days as manager of Leeds United. I first heard of it (and how good it is) in December when in England. To my gratified astonishment I picked up an iffy DVD of it in Medan last week having seen neither hide nor hair of it in Singapore. I popped it on today just before finishing marking, ostensibly to check whether it played okay. It did, and I was hooked and so watched the whole thing. The marking had to wait.

I suppose part of my being hooked is that I have very strong recall of the actual events - being delighted at Leeds imploding. I was also a huge admirer of Cloughie - the promoted Derby County of 1969 played great, great football, better, I think, than his later Forest outfits, but you could always admire them also for really playing the game. Being given the 'inside story' as it were, was fascinating, especially when Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall recreate the Clough/Taylor axis so convincingly.

The scenes in which Clough insults Peter Taylor just before joining Leeds and apologises to him after the fiasco are superb, managing to be both intelligent and moving. At least part of the genius of Clough lay in his understanding of his flaws and his understanding that Taylor was fundamental to his success. What works wonderfully well in the movie is how we see Cloughie coming to understand that and not just accept it but embrace it.

And what also works brilliantly is the recreation of a genuinely charismatic character. You start to understand just how it (the great management) all worked, something you couldn't legislate for. It would be interesting to screen The Damned United on management/leadership courses. People would be usefully appalled.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Taking Note

A day on which I get to play seven CDs can't be seen as a wasted one, even if it has also involved a whole bunch of marking.

Here's what what made the playlist today: Dylan's Another side of Bob Dylan; Richard Hawley's Coles Corner (for a bit of Sheffield); Badly Drawn Boy's One Plus One Is One (for a bit of Manchester); Sufjan Stevens's Seven Swans (for a bit of spirituality); Manic Street Preachers's Journal For Plague Lovers (for a bit, well a lot really, of angst); and Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One and I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass - the last being my favourite title (as title) of all.

I must say, I'm quite pleased that the list sounds whilst not terribly current not terribly old-fashioned either. Now listening to Fafa tapping out what sounds like a bit of Bach on the keyboard next door, as a practice piece. And you can't get more current than that.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Being Bad

I'm not a bad man, but I acted badly - thus some American ex-sportsman, on a murder charge, apologising. Fascinating. When does acting badly become being bad?

I once told someone I knew well that I couldn't accept the idea of a deeper self, one hidden as it were, from public view, the sort of Deep down I'm a good guy idea. I posited the notion that we are what we do.

I'm still inclined to think that way. And unless we know what we do, we fail to know ourselves.

Since self deception is the easiest deception of all to practise it is, to say the least, useful to find out what others think - really think - of us, and what we actually do. For, so often, we know not what we do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Home Comforts

Now safely back at the Mansion I can try and hack out the time to get back to some sustained reading. That's not to say the trip to Indonesia allowed me no time at all to read, but what needed to be done precluded serious progress. However, I did finish Dreams From My Father and thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end, though I got a bit lost on Obama family history in the final Kenya section. The edition Boon leant me ended with an excerpt from The Audacity of Hope. Unfortunately for the publishers, reading this made me decide I wasn't in any rush to get to grips with the full version. The contrast with the personal poetry of Dreams From My Father was striking. The later book is essentially political rhetoric - very fine, sympathetic rhetoric, but rhetoric nonetheless.

(Isn't it odd? Almost every time I type Dreams From My Father, I don't. It comes out Dreams For My Father. Is some strange Freudian thing going on here?)

Last night, and on the flight back this morning, I made decent in-roads into Praise of Folly. The last time I read it cover to cover was in 1975, and I'm reading the same edition. It smells great. It's the Penguin translation by Betty Radice with an informative introduction by one A.H.T. Levi on the intellectual background of Erasmus. The notes are excellent - making up about a fifth of the text in the Penguin. But the great thing about Erasmus is that you don't have to know what he is writing about to know what he is writing about. Mr Levi seems troubled by the fact that Folly's abundant ironies start to cancel each other out. I think it's wonderful.

I'm also eyeing Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? since I'm in the mood for some comfortable fiction. Mind you, I'm one of those of the opinion that Trollope has more about him than the creation of a delightful version of Victorian England to holiday in. Some of his women make Dickens's ladies look positively soppy. You wouldn't want to get into an argument with a fair number of them. Like life really.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Ties That Bind

The tiny tots in Indonesian schools are required to walk everywhere in single file, arms akimbo, as their teachers valiantly attempt to control their exuberance. This means they must adopt a curiously camply mincing gait. This is both very funny and oddly touching.

I had the privilege of observing the above in one of the four schools we visited today. We, and me in particular, probably struck the kids as impossibly distant, alien figures. But, curiously, I was irresistibly reminded of my own primary school days. The run-down buildings were not a million miles away from those of the old St Mary's, Denton, and there was that same sense of the total immersion of the little ones in their endlessly fascinating little world(s).

And that same sense of hope. And wonder.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting Away From It All

I am growing suspiciously comfortable with the level of noise coming from outside our hotel room. The din created by the traffic is unremitting, but oddly comforting as a reminder of the swirling hurly burly of real life circulating around the unreality of buffet breakfasts and the like. We're checked by security, for explosives and such, each time we enter the haven of the hotel, and we ate dinner this evening at a place where the security was even tighter. Oddly this makes me feel less secure than I normally would. I suppose it's the effect of being reminded of how vulnerable and exceptional these places, in this society, are.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fine Dining

I'd forgotten just how much food, the consumption thereof, is involved in these trips. Part of our reason for being here is to build ties with various schools in Medan. And the Asian way of building ties is through eating. Lots of eating of lots of food.

This in some ways is highly enjoyable, especially for those who like to dine well. Unfortunately much as I enjoy eating I can't say I can genuinely do so on this monumental scale, even though all the food is good, going on great. I am awash with Chinese tea.

Andrew tells me that what we are experiencing is nothing compared to the degree of hospitality involved in trips to China. The mind, and stomach, boggles.

I am sure to gain an extra few kgs, I fear, and am guiltily considering some serious exercise, and restraint, once I get back to the missus and Mansion. Since I have not exercised in earnest since the latest bout of trouble with my back the proposition of finding something I can do with some regularity is challenging and intimidating in equal measure.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Marked Man

There's a pile of marking on the desk of the hotel room insidiously calling: Come do your duty. Our anonymity makes us even more boring than is usually the case. And you've got less than twenty-four hours to clear us. The tedium! The tedium!

And I listen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Staying Connected

When you're in a hotel with a temperamental Internet connection it's best to keep things short. So that's what I'm doing. Ain't technology wonderful?

Friday, February 19, 2010


Assuming all goes to plan, this time tomorrow will see me in Indonesia busily preparing to test the young intelligentsia of Medan to see whether they are up to the trials of a scholarship in Singapore. It'll be life-changing for some, disappointing for others and involve a degree of hard work for me. Just clearing the desk to leave the routine behind for a few days has been testing in itself.

I suppose that's what you don't quite grasp when you are young. It's all one long test. With no clear answers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


It's impossible to refute the fatalist or determinist's argument. Once it has turned out the way it has, it will feel inevitable. The sense that destiny and his natural gifts took President Obama to the White House is very strong indeed.

But the alternative narrative is much more interesting. And, now I'm two-thirds of the way through Dreams From My Father feels truer. This is a man of great natural gifts who changed himself for the better. He was a mess, like the rest of us. I suspect he's still a mess - it comes with the territory of being human. But I further suspect he's a distinctly better mess than most - a mess with a remarkable degree of control and awareness of his messiness.

I think we have the capacity to learn enough of what we need to know to improve ourselves in a psychological sense. To become healthier, as it were, mentally. It's an idea I first came across, stated in this raw and distinctly challenging manner, in John Cleese and Robin Skynner's Life, and How To Survive It - the only self-help book I've ever taken with any degree of seriousness and the only one that's ever made me laugh. (The only one I've ever leant to other people.) I remember when I first read it feeling quite a degree of anxiety as to where I ranked in the mental health stakes as I first considered whether I could accept their central idea at all. It was peculiarly freeing to find my answer to be that I ranked pretty darned low, all told.

I think I've changed a bit since then. But not much: change is possible, I think, but pretty darned hard and extremely darned gradual.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Defeating Expectations

I suppose when I started reading Dreams From My Father I had quite a few ideas regarding the experience in store for me. I expected it was going to be a good read, for example, and in that respect it has not let me down, so far. But in almost every other way it has turned out to be rather different from what I thought it would be.

It's the portrait, rather self-portrait, of the author that has surprised me most of all. Dreams From My Father is no advertisement for myself in the grand Mailer tradition. Well, that's not entirely true. It has Mailer's coruscating honesty, but is missing the attendant self-confidence. Obama emerges as a bit of a mess in places. I'm a third of the way through and so far the tone is positively downbeat - except for the frequent sense of the mystery and poetry of others. In fact, that's exactly the word used in this bit: There was poetry as well - a luminous world always present beneath the surface, a world that people might offer up as a gift to me, if I only remembered to ask.

It's difficult to imagine Bush writing this. It's difficult to imagine any politician doing so - with Havel as an honourable exception.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beyond Analysis

Finding myself in the Kinokuniya bookshop at KLCC last night, I felt confident I wouldn’t be putting my hand in my pocket and troubling the cashiers, despite the tasty selection on offer. And tasty it certainly was, particularly in terms of one or two well-chosen displays. They seem to employ someone there who really knows what he or she is doing when it comes to book selection and the like. The shelves for Popular Science are much better in terms of their range than anything in the big flagship Kinokuniya in Singapore and they always have cunning displays around the Graphic Novel and Music sections. Last night there was an excellent table dedicated to Gothic Fiction that caught the eye and tempted the wallet in the same spot where several months ago they did an excellent job promoting Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, along with one or two of those of Fleming’s more recent acolytes. Yet despite all this I was confident that, given the length of my Books That Simply Must Be Read Before Moving On To Pastures New list, I would emerge unscathed on the wallet front.

It was the Poetry section that proved my undoing. Not that it’s a particularly great section – generally it doesn’t alter that much in terms of what’s on offer and the selection is sort of interesting but quirky. And it wasn’t actually a book of poems that did me in. No, as soon as I spotted the chunky Letters of Ted Hughes, selected and edited by Christopher Reid I sensed the game was up for me. In truth, I’d wanted to buy this back in England but it was simply the size of the thing in relation to our already over-stuffed cases that had held me back. I’d then made my mind up that, despite this being an inevitable purchase somewhere down the line, I’d put it on hold and seek for it in Singapore. However, I’d not looked too hard in the interim given, I suppose, my determination not to buy too much more to read until I’d made big in-roads on the aforementioned list. My determination actually held up for a good ten minutes after my initial sighting of the Letters, but the frightening idea that I might not come across any edition at all other than this one finally decided me.

The fact that the book was shrink-wrapped had assisted my pitiful resistance to a purchase to some degree. Back in England I’d had the chance to leaf through the tome and read a couple of letters and that was what had been responsible for the sheer inevitability of a purchase at some point in time. Hughes was obviously as fine a letter writer as he was as great a poet and once into a letter the sheer forward momentum of his ideas and presence made it impossible not to read on. In fact, the word ‘fine’ gives the wrong impression. There was nothing of the magisterial in literary terms about what I was reading. These were the living, engaging words of a friend, a companion in reading and thinking – but a companion of startling mastery.

And that leads me to what has been on my mind as a result of that first glance at the Letters and my reading of Neil Roberts’s book on Hughes at the end of December. There’s a point at which what might broadly be termed critical analysis gets in the way of what literature is about. The attempt to stand outside a writer’s work in a place of some kind of distanced judgment is misplaced and does damage to one’s reading. A truly responsive engaged reading, which is the only reading of any lasting kind of value, needs to be one that is spellbound, even as one recognises the key ingredients of the spell.

I’m looking forward to falling, or putting myself, under Hughes’s rugged spell again soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Moving Pictures

With not a great deal to do driving on the way up to KL, other than marveling at the antics of the usual melange of mentally deficient drivers, and listening to Van Morrison, Dream Theatre, Oscar Lopez (a Spanish guitarist whom Noi favours) and Richard and Linda Thompson, I was thinking over my post concerning seven favourite movies, realising there were two obvious deficiencies. The first, and most striking, Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. I suppose it slipped my mind as I’ve seen it so often (showing it as part of an enrichment programme for Literature at a school I used to teach at) that I’ve become a touch jaded about it. I wouldn’t want to watch it at this moment, for example. But I know I will watch it again some day, so it qualifies.

The other omission was Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies. To be honest, it’s his plays for tv that really resonate with me but I’d certainly be keen to view what I suppose is his best known feature film any time at all, so it makes the list. And that reminds me, or rather, reading Writing Home reminded me, of the brilliant play for television (or was it a film? – I don’t know how to classify such things) The Insurance Man, scripted by Alan Bennett. A great Daniel Day-Lewis performance as an eerily distant, completely convincing Kafka. But I don’t think it really qualifies, so now I’ve got an odd nine (favourite movies, that is.)

I’ve been thinking of something from the world of animated films to get the list to a satisfying ten. But I seem to like all cartoons so it’s difficult to pick anything out. If I had to I suppose it would be either Monsters Inc or A Shark’s Tale, but they sort of cancel each other out – and as soon as I write them at least six other titles come to mind.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Time For A Tiger

With the Lunar New Year upon us it's time to begin again, again, again. I'm told (relentlessly) it's a Tiger year and since the missus is herself a Tiger girl this is all very satisfactory. I quote from the programme for last Friday's in-school entertainment: The Tiger is said to be vivid, lively and engaging. Another attribute of the Tiger is his (read her for the missus!) incredible bravery, evidenced in his willingness to engage in battle or his undying courage. Tigers always land on their feet, ready for their next act in life, pursuing it with unyielding energy.

Well that sort of fits Noi, though it somehow misses her cooking.

This tiger and monkey (an unlikely combination, I'm told) are off to the wilds of Kuala Lumpur after exchanging the customary sweet, silly, slushy cards that celebrate the other aspect of this day. I could do with some of that tigerish energy for the drive ahead since I'm still in battery-recharging mode. Which reminds me - there's now a lag of some ten to fifteen seconds between pressing the switch for the bathroom light to come on and the light actually blazing into action. Is electricity normally so languid?

Saturday, February 13, 2010


There are a few references to A Private Function in Alan Bennett's Writing Home. These reminded me of what a wonderful film it was, though Bennett, the scriptwriter thereof, doesn't seem particularly in love with his own work. I think I made a video of it when it was shown on tv in the mid-eighties. I can certainly recall a great deal about it, which is unusual for me with regard to films and visual stuff generally. Beautifully cast and performed, it featured an outstanding Maggie Smith and excellent stuff from Denholm Elliott (wonderfully nasty) and Michael Palin and Richard Griffiths (both wonderfully, believably nice.)

This set me to wondering whether I'll ever be a position to draw up one of those lists of My Ten Favourite Movies, I suppose in preparation for the day I unexpectedly become famous and there is some interest in such things. Like being invited onto Desert Island Discs, except I'd never be able to specify my eight (is it?) favourite records, no matter how famous I get to be.

But I do think there is some chance I might manage a list related to films as I just don't remember enough about what I've seen, or liked what I've seen enough to have that many contenders to confuse me. A Private Function would make it on the grounds that I remember just how massively I enjoyed it and I wouldn't mind watching it again. Unfortunately, I can't get anywhere close to ten. But I reckon these are my favourite six, make of them what you will (with A Private Function combining for an odd seven: Fanny and Alexander; Heimat (German, very long at around 15 hours, so, I suppose, not strictly a movie, but I'm dying to get hold of some sort of recording of it having watched it when it aired on British tv); Cinema Paradiso; The Godfather II; ET; and Local Hero.

A satisfyingly odd line-up, I think.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Prospect

Looking ahead, it's a slightly odd though reasonably cheerful couple of weeks I'm facing. I'll be in school for only three days. Chinese New Year falls this Sunday and the attendant holiday means we'll only have a couple of days next week, and immediately after I'm off to Medan again (having been there at roughly the same time last year) for a recruiting trip. It won't be all beer and skittles in Indonesia but it will certainly make a refreshing change from the usual routine.

To celebrate this bit of elbow room I've decided to get a bit of cleaning done around the house - not that I'm treading on the toes of my more-than-capable missus. I'm targeting the books and CDs which come under my jurisdiction and were last overhauled just before Hari Raya, back in September of last year. In fact, I'm more than a little pleased with myself having completed the bibliographical work in the front room before dinner.

I'm not sure why I find cleaning stuff and getting it in order quite so satisfying, but I do and it's useful to exploit that feeling in terms of delivering relatively civilised standards of living. My default mode is determined laziness and I need to find every loophole I can in the defences of that mode in all aspects of my life. Another aspect of the general utility of the cleaning is to act as a reminder of all the tasty material I'm lucky enough to own (if you really can own books and music) and the good sense of milking it for all it's worth rather than blindly acquiring more and more - as it's so easy to do, especially when one has a little more time on one's hands.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On The Road

The return journey from work this evening took three times as long as I would have expected. No great mystery involved: an accident at the ERP gantry on the ECP near the new IR (this country loves its acronyms) closed the two outer lanes of the highway at a time when the traffic was beginning to get really busy.

But here's the puzzle: the accident took place on a straight section of a perfectly good road, in fine weather, at a time when visibility would have been excellent. And here's another: this sort of thing occurs with monotonous regularity on this road - I'd say three or four times a month. In fact, just last week I was three cars behind a collision between a car and motorcyclist which probably closed a couple of lanes after I'd managed to get around the aftermath.

In contrast, back home driving in Manchester in the winter, on fairly busy and often quite tricky roads (plenty of big roundabouts, for example) I can't recall seeing or being held up by a single accident last December. Now I wouldn't say English drivers are perfect but, despite the more complex road systems and variable conditions, it's one heck of a lot less stressful to drive over there.

The solution to this conundrum: the Singaporean driver. I'm told the driving test here is rigorous. I assume they make sure they don't allow anyone with a shred of road sense out there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Measure of a Man

I have measured out my life with post-it notes. Yikes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not So Nice

Every time I read one of those ghastly predictions regarding what will be happening to the planet around 2050 as a result of our idiocy I find myself thinking something along these lines: Well, I'll most likely be long gone by then, with an attendant sense of relief. The utter selfishness of this is staggering. I can't help wondering though if a number of world leaders are thinking something similar. It would explain a lot.

There are times it's difficult to feel even mildly comfortable about oneself, never mind ascending to the dizzy heights of righteous pride.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eye Candy

Came home from work to put on an episode of The Blue Planet - the one about coral reefs. Realised half-way though that I was almost entirely oblivious to the commentary. I was simply luxuriating in the flow of images - usually gorgeous, occasionally grotesque, sometimes just plain funny, always compelling. A kind of drug, I suppose - wholly benign.

If the Almighty enjoys creation in some similar fashion I suppose it would explain a lot - not least the urgent, remorseless fecundity of it all.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Bright Side

Just finished marking for the day unless, that is, three essays I was promised on Friday arrive in my e-mail. Unlikely at this stage, I think. Sacrificing most of the weekend means I should be able to survive the early part of the working week - but there are no guarantees even of such small mercies. Unfortunately I'm still left one or two work-related tasks so this is no time for celebration.

On the brighter side, I've got a bit of reading (and listening) done in between essays so not all has been lost. In fact, I think I've gained more than a fair bit from Dylan on Dylan - a compilation of interviews with the great man from 1962 almost to the present. One of my EE students from last year, Lisa, gave me this on Teachers' Day and I sort of wish she hadn't, as gifts like this are way too expensive, but I'm also glad she did, as it's a really good book. (But if any of my students are reading this who also happen to be generous types, when it comes to Teachers' Day, a little card is more than enough!)

The compilation works on several levels and I'll mention just two. Reading the interviews in sequence gives a fascinating sense of the development yet curious consistency of Dylan's extraordinarily individual way of looking at things. At first I tended to dip into the book here and there, but a sequenced reading is highly recommended. Above all such a reading gives a powerful sense of the scarring experience of celebrity. The second thing has been the emphatic realisation of just how interesting the Bobster is and has been over his entire career - a word he doesn't care for, by the way. I'm not saying he's interesting all the time - there are dull stretches, as you might expect, usually the result of dull questions. But barely a page passes without at least one dazzling shard of insight.

And having completed the interviews I'm now onto Alan Bennett's Writing Home, so there's guaranteed joy in store. I was laughing out loud by page 2, and that was just the introduction.

And on the very brightest of sides, I'm confident Arsene's boys will do the business tonight against a wobbly Chelsea and leave United in pole position at just the right moment in the season. At least, I think I am.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Losing It

I had to go into work early this afternoon just to pick up some papers I foolishly left behind yesterday. Having decided it was necessary to ruin the weekend with some non-stop marking I wasn't going to let my idiotic forgetfulness of the day before stop me. And idiotic it certainly was. Far from leaving in a mad rush I'd had a good twenty minutes or so of relaxed gazing over my desk as I was waiting for some keys to get back to me. Yet I managed to overlook a fairly obvious pile of material that had been right there in front of me.

Since this wasn't my first major error of the week - I overlooked something substantial on Wednesday, something that's part of my daily routine - it raises the interesting question not so much of whether my brain is deteriorating, which it fairly obviously is, but at what rate I'm losing my various marbles. I reckon it's pretty quick, but not in the major problem category - as yet. The tsunami of in-coming stuff one needs to remember on a daily basis is so overwhelming that mistakes, big ones, are pretty much inevitable. Which raises the interesting question of why we are so keen to create systems that no one can really cope with. It didn't use to be this way: that's something I definitely remember.

Anyway, we turned the journey to work - the missus gamely coming along - into something of a jaunt, culminating in tea and samosas at the Kampong Glam Cafe. And then it was back to the ranch to deal with what must be dealt with. Which is what I'm doing now. Sort of.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Theft and Love

Puzzled to read today about the Aussie band Men At Work being successfully sued for nicking a bit of the melody of Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree (a song I quite used to like until Fifi and Fafa sung it to death as kids) and giving it to the flute bit in the irritating Down Under. Actually finding out the tune was in there increased my limited appreciation for Men At Work's ditty. But I just don't get what the judge thought he was up to. Doesn't he know that songwriters and musicians in general purloin stuff all the time, consciously or unconsciously? (Just imagine what old Handel would have to pay out in royalties if he were alive today.) It wouldn't be so bad if the lady who wrote the piece (I must admit, I'd assumed it was some old folk tune) hadn't passed on in the late eighties. At last then it would have been nice to know the shekels were going to an old lady rather than to what I imagine is the faceless publishing company doing the suing.

Let's hope those publishing johnnies don't start listening too hard to the greatest album of the last decade. Dylan didn't call it 'Love And Theft' for nothing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


People can be funny. I asked the missus earlier who she thought might play us in a movie, and she just couldn't take the question seriously. When I suggested Mel Gibson (for me, not her) she seemed to find this hilarious.

To be honest, for me the real problem lay in figuring out who might have the range to play Noi. I plumped for Meryl Streep on the grounds she can play anyone. But maybe she doesn't quite have the look of a little Malay girl.

We sort of agreed on Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in the end. But Noi, for some obscure reason, was still laughing. Odd.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Sort of Relief

Came home to the news of a robbery at Mak & Abah's house in Melaka. Early morning: five guys with parangs. They tied up Rachid and told the others to keep quiet, or stay sleeping. Time taken: thirty minutes. The losses: a fair amount of cash from various members of the family in residence and ten handphones. The relief: nobody was hurt, including Rachid. His take on matters - the money doesn't matter as long as no one got themselves killed. Sensible as ever.

As someone who was burgled twice back in England (once when asleep, to wake up when all was over; once coming home to the break-in) I can tell you it leaves you with a dreadful sense of vulnerability. And a deep hatred of thieves. I'm not so sensible about these matters. I'm all for getting even, but the relief afforded by good old-fashioned vengeance appears to have gone out of fashion. A pity.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Judgment

I was a little uncharitable yesterday towards Mr Terry methinks. After all, I don't really know what has been going on his life (& I don't want to know) and he's not the first gentleman, and certainly won't be the last, who seems to have a problem keeping it in his trousers. It's not so much the individual case that irritated, and my tone clearly was one of irritation, as the general point concerning the misapplication of the notion of 'character' - and, I suppose, further down the road, the baffling application of the positive idea of reputation to those who are highly likely to mislay theirs over the course of time.

In fact, when you really consider it, it's difficult to imagine how we might sincerely talk of anyone possessing 'character' who happens to be particularly talented in a certain area, gains from that and has the good fortune to be born in the developed world. I don't begrudge those who can sell their talents at a high price the money they get. But I can't understand why I'm expected to admire them for some excellence of personality at one and the same time. Similarly, I can see why those who work hard and make a contribution to society deserve to prosper, and I hope they do, but it seems to me there's nothing terribly special about hard work - it is clearly the lot of a fair proportion of humanity who fail to prosper and they get on with it without claiming to be anything too special.

I think I'll reserve my sense of those who possess this mysterious thing called 'character' for those who persevere against impossible odds just to keep going in impossible circumstances and somehow get through. And you know what? There are plenty of those folk around, usually in those places we don't too much care to look.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Surprised and puzzled (but somewhat gratified) that the Arse didn't bother to turn up for yesterday's game. Let's hope they decide to do something serious at Stamford Bridge - they're well capable of it. It ain't over until it's over.

Though it looks all over for what's left of John Terry's reputation. It's odd how the notion of character is often applied to those who clearly don't have it.

And, on a more domestic note, it's all over for Tim Winton's Dirt Music. Except for what will live on in memory - which is plenty.