Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Click on the link below to link to a rich variety of free e-cards from Liverpool City Museums. I sent myself the one of lego characters jumping on Tracy Emin's bed as a taster. Who said the Turner Prize couldn't be fun?


Friday, 14 November 2008


Whenever I get blase (snooty even) about Cornwall and the Cornish, a short sweet visit to dear Redruth puts me straight again. I know that Redruth was chosen as the place to try out curfews on under sixteens (presumably because a significant number of under-sixteens in the town were being a bloody nuisance all over the place). I know the town is in terminal decline and has been so throughout the boom-years of the last decade (now, of course, we are all in terminal decline). But for all of that, for all its faults, it's a friendly, honest, direct kind of place, with hearts of gold. A poor-looking woman in Jim's Cash and Carry pitying those 'up-country' who are worse off than she, or about to be in the coming recession. ( 'About to lose their homes and all.') Kind, unfailingly patient ticket clerk (or should that now be Customer Service Rep?) at the railway station, determined to get me the best price deals on tickets to London, Newton Abbott, Crewe - to the moon, maybe, if I'd asked her. The best fish and chips ANYWHERE at Morrish's (better, even, than in the North - yes, BETTER!). The carpark that is more than 100% cheaper per hour than in upmarket Truro (which might as well be the moon as far as Redruth is concerned). The charity shops turning over some very good, pure wool coats for under a fiver.

I think it's because I feel close to my father there. He went to school in Redruth, when it still had a grammar school whose headmaster felt it his God-given duty to plead with parents to keep their boys out of the mines by letting them stay into the Sixth Form, after which 'there were many scholarships available to bright boys to study at the University' (my father got one to Imperial College, London). In those days, after the War, the town was probably far less grim than it is now, because it would still, then, have been a town with hope. The tin mines were open still, after all. There was still a kind of (if limited) future in farming and fishing.

And there were no signs in Cornish anywhere (I have that on my father's authority - although, since he's been dead these last ten years, he can't corroborate it). They didn't need signs in Cornish, no more, really, than they do now. Redruth people have that air of always knowing who they are - and were.

Friday, 7 November 2008


Large amounts of my time out this week have been spent watching 'Brideshead Revisited' through the ITV website, courtesy of the Silverlight software downloaded onto the Macbook by my daughter during her half term holiday. What a joy to escape from the tedious reality TV and so-called 'edgy' (as in the unoriginal and puerile Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross variety) shows of the mainstream present into a golden age of past glories. 'Drowing in honey', as Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) puts it in episode 2.

When I first watched Brideshead on TV, it was during its first airing in 1981, when I was myself an undergraduate in London, though with plenty of friends (and consequent week ends) up amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford and the slightly more puritanical cloisters of Cambridge (always the more radical of the two). That fey, floppy hair and languid manner of the 'boys' irritated me then, and still does now, although I now see the series (and indeed the novel) less as a nostalgia trip about toffs than as an excellent narrative study about the disintegration of a character-type and his place in a changing world, represented by Sebastian Flyte, a deserving BAFTA-winning role for Anthony Andrews. (What has he done since? Has he ended up like Flyte through playing Flyte?). Brideshead, though slightly fading round the edges, is a sumptuous production, redolent of Eighties excess, although, curiously, it was almost stymied by the strikes of 1979, which interfered with its shooting. There are, of course, too many undeserving 'haves' in it, and too many hapless, forleock-tugging 'have-nots'; but to get fixated on a Marxist-socialist reading of the drama is to miss the point - not to mention the fun. Anyway, at my age (middle age...), I'd far rather watch old re-runs of intelligent dramas like this - even less intelligent, but hardly less entertaining ones, such as Upstairs Downstairs (which makes the class divide into family viewing) than the disjointed programmes we get today in which narrative continuity seems a forgotten art.

In The Telegraph last Saturday, Charles Moore challenged the BBC's latest mess-up (the Brand-Ross-Sachs-Sachs's granddaughter affair) by refusing to pay his TV licence until Jonathan Ross is sacked, rather than simply penalised to the tune of a million quidsworth of licence-payers' money during his period of suspension. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I am seriously thinking of not renewing my TV set when the switch to digital goes through in Cornwall next year. Why pay to watch broadcasts of crap-TV (I put it in lumpen and vulgar terms because it IS lumpen and vulgar..) when quality 'old' TV is freely available via the internet? Looking forward now to a week end of Jewel in the Crown, Cracker, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, to name but a few, not to mention the eight episodes or so of Brideshead still to go. Just the thing on a November evening with nothing much going on outside here either!

Saturday, 1 November 2008


Great to see a new website for tree-lovers:


In a world of greedy hedge-funders, French revisionists, and crazy Cornish nationalists, not to mention the revolting capers of over the hill presenters like Jonathan Ross and unspeakable Russell Brand (words fail me on that one), it's marvellous to see the trees again, instead of all this pesky dead wood.