Perhaps the happiness of an occasion is in inverse proportion to the expectations you have of it – but whether that is true or not, I did have low expectations of yesterday and yesterday did turn out to be much better than anticipated. Of course, OH maintains that one should always have low expectations and that way you won’t be disappointed, but I will not be sucked into the dystopian murk that is the mind of OH. Nevertheless I had a good birthday. It began with a lovely faux-leather bound, gold-edged copy of the Greek New Testament in its own box, continued with a delightful card and carried on with a steady stream of presents including some t-shirts, a box set of I Claudius and one of the original Forsyte Saga plus some Neil’s Yard face cream. But I think I told you this yesterday. Are you paying attention? I hope so, cos I’m not… in the evening we had a selection of Indian snacks plus chips and dips (including the incomparable mango chutney, possibly the most delicious condiment ever created) and a bottle of Rioja (possibly the best wine ever created) while watching Ambulance (weird choice I know but it’s very compelling) followed by I, Claudius (or I, Clavdivs as OH persists in calling it.) It’s a great series but rather slow by modern standards and very indoorsy, no outside stuff at all. If Derek Jacobi hadn’t set such an impossibly high standard (not to mention a stellar cast including Sian Phillips and the wonderful John Hurt as Caligula) a remake might be on the cards. But although you could improve on the production values you could never improve on the acting.

Oh, and in the afternoon Daniel and I sat in the hour or so of sunshine we were allotted before the thunder while he taught me to play poker. I’m afraid I beat him hands down.

So that was yesterday, a day when all my troubles really did seem so far away and I felt blessed to have people who love me.

Kirk out

Toppling Statues (2)

Bless me friends, for I have sinned; it has been nearly a week since my last post. As you will have gathered, I’ve been poorly with a series of symptoms which seem to correspond to no virus known to mankind, giving me headaches, a sore throat, volcanic mouth ulcers and deep fatigue. Thankfully a week on nearly everything has passed apart from some lighter fatigue so I am able to enjoy my birthday.

Like everyone else I’ve also been thinking about BLM. I’ve been utterly dismayed by the number of people – either friends or friends-of-friends on Facebook – who have been questioning the need for BLM or even the very existence of racism. It’s very dispiriting and I did try for a while to argue but if people won’t listen or engage then the only answer is to send them into a deep snooze. If people are outright abusive then they’re unfriended but first I opt for the rather gentler ‘snooze’ option. Many a good snooze prevents a bad argument…

I have also ordered a copy of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race. As to what we as a nation should do, I think the toppling of Colston’s statue was a necessary and iconic moment; a moment where people said ‘Enough. We will not tolerate this any more.’ Colston’s statue had been the subject of protest and debate for many decades and should not have been there – but whether other statues should remain is a matter for debate. And that’s where this should now go: not to knee-jerk removals of sitcoms or statues (though some maybe should go) but to debate. We need a rigorous examination of our national conscience and a thoroughgoing debate about our history: and those who say we are now ‘erasing’ or ‘editing’ it should contemplate the fact that for two hundred years slavery was also edited out of history and erased from our collective memory. There is no doubt that our history as a colonial power has been a racist one; yet far too many people would wish those times back again. Part of the delusion of Brexit was the idea that we could once more ‘go it alone’ and be a great power in the world; but the world has moved on, our time has come and gone and we are once more a small set of islands at the edge of Europe. Brexit Britain is like an aged opera diva in a darkened dressing room waiting for a cue that never comes. As for Churchill, whose statue was yesterday so nobly defended by a mob of drunken, urinating missile-lobbing thugs (see image below) it is true that Churchill was a great writer and orator and that his speeches during the dark days of 1940 were crucial. But he was undeniably a racist and a white supremacist and it’s not enough simply to shrug and say ‘those were different days.’ It’s high time we faced up to the poisonous legacy of colonialism and the way in which it still affects people today.

(Below: far-right demonstrators teaching us about how Churchill defended Britain from the Nazis)

Far-right thugs caught doing disturbing ‘Nazi salutes’ in ... image removed on request

But enough of this. Today is my birthday and fortunately I am well enough to be able to enjoy it. I had a seriously good haul of presents: some t-shirts, a box set of I Claudius and one of The Forsyte Saga (the original, not the horribly lame remake), the New Testament in Greek and a pot of sumptuous Neil’s Yard face cream. There’s a book on studying New Testament Greek to come. Later there will be Rioja with a selection of snacks, chips and dips while we watch one of the DVDs.

Now I must go and wash my hands while singing Happy Birthday to Me twice…

Kirk out

Boxing Clever

There hasn’t been much on the old box lately; I’d given up trawling unprofitably through Netflix and the i-player because anything that was any good had that little red progress bar underneath showing that we’d watched it already. And then came Britbox.

Britbox is a collaboration between the Beeb and ITV, a sort of i-player-plus with loads of classic stuff from both channels. We knew it was coming but they’ve brought it forward, presumably because of the unmentionable, and a deep joy it is too: I discovered things I hadn’t seen for ages, like Rev. (brilliant series) all of Doc Martin, The Forsyte Saga (though sadly not the original with Eric Porter and Nyree Dawn Porter) and I’m wondering if I, Claudius is on there too because I’d love to see that again. There are all the old comedies like The Good Life and Open all Hours and Yes, Minister/Prime Minister and of course endless hours of Downton Abbey which we will be laying down and avoiding (it’s not a wine for drinking, it’s a wine for laying down and avoiding.)

Ironically we discovered Britbox just as I’d begun watching Breaking Bad. To be fair OH and son have been going on at me about the latter for several years but in spite – or perhaps because – of that I’ve been laying down and avoiding it. I’ve also discovered that I have an aversion to names that don’t make sense (I don’t understand it so I’m not going to watch it) but I now know what breaking bad means, so I can proceed in peace. And no, I’m not going to tell you – you’ll just have to go through your own tormented process until you find out. If you are so foolish as to do any such thing.

So – last night we rediscovered the delights of Rev, the charm of which lies in its utter authenticity as it is written by those in the know and researched by clerics including the Rev. Richard Coles. But you don’t have to be an Anglican (or ex-Anglican) to enjoy it; Tom Hollander’s beleaguered priest is comic and touching in about equal measure and Olivia Coleman is a delight as his long-suffering wife.

So if you’ve watched everything on Netflix and i-player I advise you to box clever. Get Britbox. (I’m wasted here; I should have gone into advertising.)

Kirk out

Withnail and I and Me Myself Personally

I expect I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here as you’re all terribly literate bods but I’m sure you’ve noticed, just as I have, that there’s an increasing tendency for people to say I when it should be me.  ‘Something happened along the way to my friend and I,’ they say; and I want to scream, ‘No it didn’t!  Something happened along the way to my friend and me!!!’  This is what’s known as hyper-correction; the mistaken belief that a correct construction is wrong because it sounds like an incorrect one.  Like, for example, saying ‘slither’ instead of ‘sliver’ in the mistaken impression that the word has suffered from some sort of Cockney takeover from which it must be rescued forthwith.

It’s very straightforward really.  ‘I’ is the subject of the sentence, the person doing whatever it is – but if something happens to them, the ‘I’ becomes ‘me.’  Hence it’s ‘I, Claudius’ because Claudius is speaking about himself as the subject of the action, the doer (and yes, I know a lot of things happen to him but that is not the point of the title; the title makes him the subject of the book, not its object.)  Conversely, it’s a #metoo movement, not an #Itoo movement precisely because it’s about things that have happened to me that were not of my doing.  Withnail and I have come on holiday by mistake; but on this mistaken holiday a number of things happened to Withnail and Me.

But you don’t even have to delve into grammar to get this.  There’s a very simple test: just go back to the original sentence and take away my friend.  You wouldn’t say ‘a funny thing happened to I,’ would you?  Because you’d sound like a Rastafarian and only a Rastafarian should do that.  So why do so many people make this mistake?  I think it’s because something takes over when you hear yourself say ‘my friend and…’ and supplies the word ‘I’ as sounding correct; just as in the brain of some people an ‘s’ always implies an apostrophe.

Here endeth the lesson…

Kirk out

It Ain’t Half Hot, Dad!

Many thanks for all the kind comments yesterday on Lizardyoga’s Weblog’s fifth anniversary – the occasion was useful as it gave me the opportunity to take a look back and see how I started off.  And lo!  I find it was on meeting Hanif Kureshi (author of ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’, ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ and, more recently, ‘My Son the Fanatic’) and on asking his advice as to what aspiring writers should do to succeed.  ‘Start a blog’ was his reply, so the very next day, that is what I did.  I see that originally I didn’t post quite every day, though I didn’t miss many, and that some of my first posts featured dialogues between a couple called Ladimir and Oestrogen, my take on Samuel Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon:

I’ve never got on with Beckett, not even in French, so I generally prefer ‘Waiting for God’ to ‘Waiting for Godot’ as I am a great fan of sitcom.  I was introduced to a new one last night, called The Wright way.  Written by Ben Elton and starring David Haig, it promised fair – but alas! going from The Thin Blue Line

to The Wright Way

is like going from ‘Dad’s Army’ to ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’.  They both have the same writer – or writers – but the first has its repeated tropes plus subtlety and something genuine, even touching, at its core.  The second just has its repeated tropes.  Ben Elton is a talented writer and has written some excellent comedy – most of it, I have to say, in conjunction with Richard Curtis, but still… he can twist his satirical pen like a knife in the wound and make us laugh till it hurts.  But this… well, it’s not bad sit-com exactly; it’s just a bit… unvaried and unsubtle.  The main character is a less unpleasant version of the CID bloke in ‘Thin Blue Line’ – less unpleasant because he is less powerful – whose conversation is basically one long rant.  The Mayor who works with him is a pompous idiot who speaks in inverted sentences – something which might be a lot funnier if done with more subtlety, but it wasn’t so it isn’t – and the hero’s two teenage daughters were disappointingly anodyne and one-dimensional.

Do I mean one-dimensional?  Can anything really be one-dimensional?  Let’s ask Mark:

‘Mark, can we really call anything one-dimensional?’

‘Yeah, if you want.’

So there you have it.

All this sit-com stuff made useful comparison with last night’s interview (this is the world on i-player, don’t forget) between David Frost (for it was he) and Stephen Fry:

This was on sketch comedy rather than sit-com, but still… though the comedy clips were well-worn the connections between them remain interesting and I will always take any chance to see the Two Ronnies wrestling with Four Candles:

or the fish-slapping dance, or anything at all by Eric and Ernie.

But now I notice that another episode of ‘I Claudius’ is up, so if you’ll excuse me I must away to ancient Rome.

Kirk out

PS  That sounds like the first line of a poem:

I must away to ancient Rome

eternal city of the mind

goodbye – for all roads take me home

towards that country of the blind.

I’m actually working on that to make it into a sonnet.

I, Coriolanus

I watched Ralph Fiennes’ version of Coriolanus for the first time last night – at least, I think it was for the first time.  I seemed to keep remembering bits but Mark tells me we didn’t go to see it so I guess I must have just seen a particularly long trailer.  The play is an analysis of military and political power, and how transferring the one to the other doesn’t necessarily work: Coriolanus saves Rome from attack and is granted state honours including a position of some political power.  But he is unable to make the transition: he can’t negotiate and regards everyone who disagrees with him as an enemy.  Does this remind you of anyone?

Hem!  Let’s not go there again… suffice it to say I would have thought Thatcher a great deal braver had she done as leaders traditionally did, and that is to lead their troops into battle rather than just dispatching them to die on Goose Green.

Enough!  To return to Coriolanus, following his abuses of power, he is exiled from the city and goes to his old enemy to offer his services.  Unable to serve as a subordinate, he effectively takes over: when Rome is in trouble his formidable mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) and his rather wimpish wife go to him on bended knee to beg him to return.  He does, eventually, and is killed in a thoroughly dramatic display of nemesis.

I thought it was a good film, but I had some issues with it.  It was trying to do the same thing as the Leonardo di Caprio version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – the original text, but with modern newsreels, dramatic changes of shot, tanks and rifles etc – but it didn’t do it half so well.  I also thought that Ralph Fiennes directing himself didn’t act as well as he does when directed by others, so that at times this usually phenomenal actor looked like a cross between Voldemort and Mr Rigsby from ‘Rising Damp’

Speaking of Shakespeare, are you watching the repeats of ‘I, Claudius’?  Apart from the lack of external shots it hadn’t dated at all.  Bub-brilliant!

Kirk out

Delices et Gourmandises are Scammers

Preying on older people is a disgraceful way to make money – if you have an aged P then warn them about these people:

They sent a relative of ours some unsolicited goods and then charged her for them.  I’m pretty sure they can be challenged on legal grounds but the fact that they target the vulnerable, the trusting and the sometimes confused (people like me, lol) makes them utterly despicable.  Spread the word on this…

But moving on – with regard to the recent footballing furore we all need to ask ourselves: Am I a Secret Fascist?

Take our simple quiz and find out:

Do you think the state is more important than the individual?

Do you like huge imposing buildings like this one?

Are you fond of military uniforms?

Have you ever wished you could drive a tank?

Do you think things would be much better if the government just issued regulations on every aspect of life?

If you answered YES to three or more of these questions then you may be a fascist.  But don’t despair.  Fascism is not necessarily racism – and there’s the rub.  Mussolini and his cohorts were definitely fascist but they weren’t specifically racist.  They didn’t much care who you were or where you came from so long as you obeyed the state.  Which if you think about it, is pretty much how the Romans were.  The Nazis, on the other hand, were specifically racist and – it hardly needs saying – anti-semitic, but Mussolini just went along with it for the sake of friendship.

Well, not friendship – but you know what I mean.  Just so they could belong to the big boys’ club.

And speaking of history, there has been some excellent historical drama on the BBC of late: apart from the wonderful drama about PG Wodehouse, also accused of having fascist sympathies, the series The Village tells the story of a rural community and in particular one boy, starting before the First World War.

The child actor in it is quite brilliant.  Not only that, but they seem to be re-broadcasting ‘I Claudius’, though for some reason they have randomly put episode 3 on iplayer but not episodes 1 and 2.  Aaaand, following on from last week’s post about the deceased Richard Griffiths, Mark Lawson was this week interviewing Miriam Margolyes.  She’s very entertaining and quite up-front about herself and others: she calls Glenda Jackson a cow and herself fat and ugly:…_Miriam_Margolyes/

I just can’t get used to watching Mark Lawson, though.  His voice is far too familiar to me from years of listening to him on radio 4 and he’s nothing like I imagined:

A good day yesterday.  I am currently tidying the house and learning all my poems by heart because performing them is much better if I don’t have to read.

Kirk out

To be, or not… for a week

I went into stasis last week: it was very pleasant, not to be for a whole week.  I watched the whole of ‘I Clavdivs’ – about 13 hours – and did a deep clean of many areas in the house, including the Augean stables which we call Under the Desk, where I found a Gordian Knot of wires, 80% of which (surprise, surprise) were not being used for anything at all, unless you count being part of a seething serpentine tangle as ‘being used’.  Having smartened the entire area I decontaminated it with the hoover, swallowing a whole zoo of little fluffy animals composed of dust.

And so back to ancient Rome.  It was very satisfying to spend a week in this way, forgetting all about writing apart from the limericks pounding in my brain.  If you haven’t seen ‘I Claudius’, do so immediately.  Though rather studio-bound, as many of those old productions were, it’s a tour-de-force by Derek Jacobi as the lame, stuttering, idiot boy who became Emperor.  What I find fascinating about the Romans – apart from the sheer level of their achievements – is the mix of intimacy and authority, at least as Graves portrays them: citizens address Caesar face to face, with familiarity, even though the next moment he can have them tortured and killed.   Also, though brutal in conquest, they respected their enemies: the conquered King Caractacus of Britain makes a defiant speech in the Senate and is given a standing ovation.  This respect for a ‘worthy adversary’ is something you don’t find nowadays, where enemies are demonised in order to persuade the populace of the need to fight them.  Another thing that doesn’t happen now – but ought to – is that political leaders took the battlefield and led their armies into war.  If Thatcher had had to embark at Port Stanley and lead her troops onto Goose Green she might have thought twice about starting her pathetic little post-colonial Falklands war.

Sorry, ‘conflict’.

Here’s the link to the TV series:

and to the books:

Robert Graves also wrote poetry: I once recited one of his for some school event.  It was called ‘Welsh Incident’ and I can still remember the first line:

But that was nothing to what came out of the caves of Criccieth yonder…

My Mum had a Welsh colleague record it for me so I could get the accent right.

Kirk out

RIP Troy Davis

An almost certainly innocent man was executed today in the state of Georgia, USA: 7 out of the 9 witnesses had retracted their testimony.  The man had been in prison for 22 years.  Death row is an abomination and should be stopped.  It is against all notion of human rights.  The death penalty is a travesty of what it claims to uphold; ie that murder is wrong: it’s like the mother I once saw in a shopping centre slapping her child and saying ‘Don’t! – hit! – people!’  Only much worse.  Once you’ve executed someone you can’t bring them back and say sorry.

In my teens I remember reading ’10, Rillington Place’; the story of Evans and Christie, an infamous miscarriage of justice here whose uncovering led in no small measure to the abolition of the death penalty.  I think the book is by Ludovic Kennedy.  Hang on…  yes, here’s the info:

If someone is wrongfully imprisoned they can be released and pardoned – but if you execute them there’s no way back – and that is why I’m against the death penalty; because it puts the state in the position of God.

Let’s have a short silence for Troy Davis:







Watching ”I Clavdivs’ last night and thinking about how much I like Robert Graves.  He had a very unorthodox life and was far ahead of his time: way before the ‘sixties he lived with a woman and they had four children together; he was also very progressive in the way he wrote about women (see ‘I Clavdivs’, the book in particular, though the BBC adaptation is quite close to it:

In a sense, he’s like Lawrence, though Lawrence later recanted some of his earlier feminism.  Perhaps it was all the plates Frieda threw at him, though I gather he threw a fair few himself.

Ugh!  Woke up at 4, couldn’t get back to sleep.  It’s now 6.40 and I’m drinking strong tea.  Today I shall be mostly… unblocking the toilet and eating spinach.  Though not necessarily in that order.

Kirk out