30 September 2010


He did rather spin it out, even unto the very last possible moment. It would have been much cleaner if he'd simply made the break last weekend.
Then there were the interviews of yesterday afternoon, with Boulton of Sky, Dirty Nick of the BBC and Snow of Channel 4, obviously recorded before and embargoed until the 5pm announcement.
And he was not that good as a politician: getting caught with bananas, failing to strike against Gordon Brown, becoming mixed up in torture claims, dithering about the big job in Europe. And, importantly, blowing his eventual chance to win the leadership.
I doubt if he'll be missed.

24 September 2010

The square root of -1

Wonderful programme on Radio 4 last night: the sainted Melvyn and chums on imaginary numbers. You can still listen to it here.

Great to hear an intellectual discussion on a difficult topic by enthused participants. I kept on listening even when the conversation turned to calculus.

Did I understand it? Not a word - my degree was from the Faculty of Arts. But it was still a good programme.


Hey, my sympathy is with the bear. You drift along, minding your own business, having some fun with the dog, when this madwoman comes at you with a courgette. Nasty things, courgettes, especially when fried with garlic and a little extra virgin olive oil. What kind of American cowgirl keeps courgettes to hand?

Tweedledum or Tweedledee

We will know by tomorrow afternoon. The expectation is that one or other of the Milibands will win the prize.

I am slightly surprised to find myself mourning the fact that the swivel-eyed Balls has been unable to command the necessary support. Of all the candidates, he alone seems to have the energy and the intelligence to take the fight to the Tories. I have not been following every twist and turn but the Milibands still seem shocked by the loss of ministerial status; their focus seems to have been inward. Unlike Balls (or even Mrs Balls), I cannot recall either Miliband mounting an attack on the Tories.

And so, once again, the Party may be making a historic mistake, saddled with Ed M, the talking horse, or David M, the talking banana, for the foreseeable future.

20 September 2010

I suppose that it's possible. I guess that, if the Minister says he will do it, he probably means it at the time. The Guardian reports:
The Liberal Democrats today promised an attack on those who have made tax evasion a lifestyle choice, as the party announced government plans to raise an extra £7bn by 2014-15 by tackling tax avoidance and fraud.
The Treasury would be "ruthless with wealthy individuals and business who think paying extra tax is an optional extra", vowed its chief secretary, Danny Alexander.
Much of the clampdown will involve more intensive scrutiny of those liable for paying the new 50p tax band introduced by the Labour government. Revenue and Customs currently looks at 5,000 high net-worth individuals, but will expand that number to 150,000.

Aye weel. Let us see. Is Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue department in a position to launch an all out attack on tax evasion? Given that trained tax inspectors do not grow on trees and are difficult to retain, particularly in the demoralised civil service of today, and given that the department's staff numbers have declined by some 25% since 2005, there is room to doubt whether this exercise involves any more than good intentions. But if the Minister says it will be so, then let us hope he means it ...

16 September 2010

Quote of the day

Bathos from The Guardian:
The Queen looked at the facsimile of the German gospel and said: "Oh, lovely. Thank you very much. It's lovely."
The pope then looked at the Holbeins and thanked her.
There was also a little small talk, with the Queen noting that Benedict appeared to have arrived at Holyrood "in a very small car".
She added: "It must have been a tight squeeze", before asking him about the popemobile. The press corps was then ushered out and fizzy water and squash were brought in to the room.
I rather suspect something more alcoholic would have been in order ...

14 September 2010

Not exactly a winter of discontent

Oh dear, oh dear. We may not be able to watch Mr Cameron's address to his party conference, nor that nice Mr Osborne's statement on the public spending review. Are you not upset? Well, you should be. Admittedly, most of you would be at work and unable to watch it anyway. And it's not as though it would remain secret, given that the other media will no doubt be covering it ad nauseam.

It's the principle of the thing. It is my right and my duty to be bored to tears by the preening effrontery of right-wing politicians. So there!

13 September 2010

Music of the week

Is this meant to be ironic?


Eh voilà. La Fin. Adieu, M Chabrol.

I first saw your movies when I lived in Brussels in the 1970s. Stéphane Audran - wow!

It is less than a month ago that I bought the DVD of the Chabrol collection - eight of the greatest ever movies for less than £12. I have brought them with me to Spain; when I put them on, I will raise a glass to the memory of le maître.

Tra la la

Strange how stories just drop out of the news. Pakistan, for example. I refuse to believe that the floods have simply gone away or that a serious start has been made to reconstruction; nor that the supplies of water, food, medecines have reached an adequate level. But you would need to search diligently through the media to find any mention.

Instead, we appear to be obsessed with footballers' follies and with who hacked whose telephones under whose orders.

And, hey, I'm far from exempt.

And now of course it's the conference season. TUC this week, so lots of stuff about job losses and strikes. The LibDems next week, so the sole topic of interest will be the future of the coalition. Then the Labour leadership, then back to the Tory cuts. All so predictable.

Well don't expect me to expatiate - blogging will therefore be light. I've got things to do, you know ...

10 September 2010

Quote of the day

From The Guardian diary:
Sky News presenter Kay Burley gets the wrong side of former minister and possible hacking victim Chris Bryant. Can you really say that illegal newsroom practices were "endemic", demands Burley. "I have just said that," counters Bryant. "You seem to be a bit dim."
Aye, and she's not the only news presenter to be so afflicted ...

09 September 2010

A la casa

As ever, I am always slightly surprised to arrive in Espana to find everything in order. Since my last visit, the electricity has remained on, meaning I don't have to chuck away the contents of the freezer and the beer is cold. When I turned the water on, it functioned. Even the damn computer and its evil twin, the router, are working more or less satisfactorily.

Of course Malaga airport remains unfinished (so what's new?) and you need to walk miles and miles to collect your bags. But the taxi system is vastly superior to Edinburgh airport (which is - by the way - an utter disgrace). And Ryanair will only sell spirits in these silly shampoo sachets. But, hey, we were only an hour late.

So here I am, sitting in my drawers and sweating profusely, compiling my first blog post of the holiday. Happy days ...

An old fuddy-duddy writes

Why would she want to wear a meat bikini? (For the flesh tones, I suppose.)

And xx? What's that all about? And should it be the xx (or maybe the Xx)?

08 September 2010

Playing away

The Telegraph reports on Mr Rooney's little friend:

The 21 year-old escort, from Bolton, is alleged to have been a “magnet” for Premier League players in bars and nightclubs.

Miss Thompson, who advertises herself as “Juicy Jen”, was reported to have slept with six defenders, three midfielders and four strikers, with two of the players married with children.

What? No goalkeepers?

07 September 2010

This Coulson business

It won't simply fade away, you know, however much the Government, the Met and the News of the World may so desire. There's more to come out, perhaps a lot more. Here is a good article in The Guardian setting out some of the unanswered questions.

For me, the most salient feature is the fact that the News of the World has already made out of court settlements of more than £1 million to each of Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers' Association and the publicist Max Clifford. Who's next?

Still think it's just a westminster village issue which will die away quietly? Not a snowball's chance ...

Here we go, I suppose

And so the mighty Liechtenstein deign to sully the hallowed turf of Hampden Park. But don't get over-excited. The Guardian remarks:
Craig Levein has launched a vigorous defence of his tactical approach with the national team, the Scotland manager pointing out that he will not bow to pressure from pundits or supporters to adopt an attacking style.
That being so, maybe we can expect a 1-0 (or perhaps a 2-0) thrashing by the boys in blue.

Me, I blame the fact that we have neither a Rooney nor a Crouch within our ranks. What we need, what we really really need, is a bit more off-field misbehaviour.

Footnote: Liechtenstein is sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. It has a total population of about 35,000. Its football team has in the past beaten Latvia, Luxembourg and Iceland and once drew with Portugal.

Tony's animal instincts

If you read nothing else today, read this!

Oh woe! Thrice woe!

Where were we? It's just so depressing to state the current position. Not just because the SNP has chosen to abandon its central raison d'être of holding a referendum on independence; it can hardly have come as a surprise that the unionist parties were determined to oppose it. So where does the bold Alex go from here? I suppose that he has resigned himself to waiting for the day (which will never come) when the SNP obtains a majority in Holyrood. In the meantime, he will revert to the time-honoured practice of blaming everything on wicked Westminster, hoping in vain that the Scottish electorate will be too dumb to notice that even if they returned a thumping majority for the SNP next May and a referendum were held and won in - say - early 2012, the actual achievement of independence would thereafter take a number of years (three, five, seven?), during which we would continue to be subject to the rigours of Westminster-inspired cuts.

But that is just a fantasy when all the indications (notably a solid 10 point lead in the opinion polls) point to a comfortable (OK, not so comfortable) win for Labour, at least in terms of becoming the largest party in Holyrood. Can there ever have been a party so woefully ill-prepared to assume power? What will its manifesto say? With whom and on what terms will it seek to govern? What will it want to do, other than being a patsy for implementing Tory cuts? Will the grey Mr Gray have any influence at Westminster, even with his own party colleagues? Your guess is as good as mine, but don't hold your breath ...

03 September 2010

Nature watch

Here is the sad little tale of how Mao tried to kill off the sparrows.

Not that we are any better - when did you last see a sparrow in Edinburgh?

I see the cheeky wee chappies in Spain and they always make me feel that the world is a better place. Maudlin, I know ...

Public service announcement

Now listen up, sports fans, and concentrate. There are no easy choices on this Friday evening.

The obvious option is the Lithuania/Scotland match on BBC1 Scotland with a kick-off at 7.15pm. But if you are less than enamoured with watching geriatric centre-halves doing their limited best to achieve a glorious nil-nil thrashing, you may care to betray your country by watching the England/Bulgaria match on ITV1 (English stations only but you can probably catch it at http://www.itv.com/Channels/ITV1/default.html) with kick-off at 8.00 pm.

If neither of these matches entices you, why not abandon the round ball? BBC Alba is showing the Glasgow/Leinster rugby match at 7.00 pm. If your telly does not stretch to teuchtertv, it will probably be available live on the BBC i-player.

Finally, for those of the distaff persuasion, young Mr Murray's latest tennis match against some Jamaican will be on SkySports 2 (and on Eurosport), probably starting some time between 7pm and 8pm (depending upon how quickly two preceding ladies singles are disposed of).


02 September 2010

Music of the week

For all the old lovers:

Bottom of the barrel

What kind of person uses his wife's deeply unfortunate and hitherto unknown medical history to defend himself against accusations of homosexuality?

Quote of the day

Warning: this may make you feel sick. It will certainly put you off your porridge.

From that damn book:
"That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me; made me feel that what I was about to do was right," squelches Blair. "On that night of the 12th May, 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct, knowing I would need every ounce of emotional power to cope with what lay ahead. I was exhilarated, afraid and determined in roughly equal quantities."
Oh gawd, he should be writing for Mills & Boon ...