Thursday, 30 June 2011

Michael Gove

Michael Gove. He's an annoying little sh*t, isn't he?
(I could go into some depth in respect of the shortfalls and fallacies in Government education policy, not to mention the cack-handed approach of Mr Gove. But what's the point? He's not paying attention.)


A works outing last Sunday to Shaw's Corner in Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire for an outdoor performance of George Bernard Shaw's play 'Pygmalion'. Particularly apt as Shaw's Corner used to be where the great man lived from 1906 until he donated it to The National Trust on his death in 1950. It's worth a visit if you're at all interested in Shaw - if only to see his revolving shed where he did most of his writing - but there's loads of artifacts and memorabilia lying about. It's pretty much as Shaw left it.
There can't be many people who are not familiar with 'Pygmalion', if only because of the musical 'My Fair Lady' which was based on it. Shaw himself nicked the idea from the Greeks; Pygmalion was the King of Cyrprus who made a statue of Aphrodite which he fell in love with and so he prayed to the goddess to bring it to life. She instructed him to kiss the statue and Hey Presto, Bob's yer uncle. He and the statue went on to have a son who was named Paphos. Thankfully, Shaw left all this rather weird and deviant behaviour out of his play and just stuck to the concept of transformimg something base into something fine and cultured. But through work and technical expertise rather than pagan mumbo jumbo.
I studied 'Pygmalion' in the Fourth Form at school (age 14/15) and was cast as Higgins by my English teacher who observed that I was an 'old cynic' just like Higgins. Harumph; is it any wonder I bear the psychological scars I do?
The performance took place on the patio of the house and the audience were placed on the lawn which slopes downwards from the house. We were invited to bring a picnic and our own chairs. No sound system was in use, so the actors had to project and use their skills to ensure we didn't miss any of the dialogue. Most of the actors managed this well enough, although some were better than others. The chap playing Colonel Pickering, however, didn't look as if he would manage to complete the performance - he was a bit ancient and doddery. But the central protagonists, Higgins and Eliza, did well and were convincing. Higgins was perhaps a little too rambunctious and voluble but that's OK. The fellow playing Alfred Doolittle stumbled occasionally over his lines but, again, he looked like he's probably close to retirement so I'll let him off. Nevertheless he delivered the 'undeserving poor' monologue well enough - this is a particular moment where Shaw slams home his Socialist views in a viscious satire of the Poor Laws. (The Reform Movement and the Progressive Liberals were campaigning for legislation to repeal the Poor Laws at the time Shaw was writing Pygmalion.)
Any road up, a jolly pleasant evening. Loads of our chums were there so we enjoyed a very sociable picnic as well as Shaw's erudite discourse on class, social mobility, poverty and prejudice.

Monday, 27 June 2011


Those Wacky Sons of Sun in the financial sector have dreamed up another spiffing wheeze for making money out of nowhere. Which the rest of us will have to pay for in future taxation.
The Greek economy is collapsing and the Greek Government seems likely to default on its loans from the financial sector, which it obtained by selling Government Bonds to the financial sector. Some of the whizz kids who bought these bonds are getting nervous and worry that they won't get their money back, so they are selling on the debt to other whizz kids at a discount, thereby cutting their losses. For example, they might have 100 million Euros of bonds but in order to get something back on them they'll sell them on for 60 million Euros rather than lose everything. The other whizz kid buys these discounted bonds in the hope that the Greek Government gets another bale out from Germany, the IMF, the EU or wherever because they reckon that when there's a bale out they'll be able to demand and get the full face value from the Greek Government and thus make a profit, in this example, of 40 million Euros. A neat trick if you can pull it off.
But where does the money for the bale out come from? Either by taxes raised by the German  Government, EU, IMF or whoever by them borrowing the money from the financial sector. So once again, Governments end up borrowing money from the financial sector to pay back the money they borrowed from the financial sector. And eventually, when the wheels come off, us poor mugs who pay our taxes foot the bill for the whole shebang.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


This chap's ancient TV show The Joy of Painting keeps cropping up at odd times on various cable/freeview channels. His creepy delivery is somehow strangely mesmerising. I think he's been dead for some time now.
Anyway, his particular schtick was that he would paint these bucolic landscapes using very few colours and a minimum of strokes, leading you to believe you could do the same and produce a painting fit for any biscuit tin in a mere 28 minutes.

Funk Assessment #29 : Aretha Franklin, The Weight

Now then, now then. What's funky about this record? Besides Aretha herself, that is.
Funky slide guitar by Duane Allman, alongside the funky Muscle Shoals house band (more info on Muscle Shoals here), with funky groovemeister Jerry Jemmott on bass. Funky backing vocals, and snappyfunky brass section. Maybe it's the bass that's the most funkiest of the funkageness... or the decide!
Incidentally, what we also have here is an example of a cover version that was worth doing; Aretha almost makes it into a new song.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I'm Not Happy With (vol.27): Luton Airport

"Were you truly wafted here from Paradise?"
"No mate. Luton Airport."
Right well, to begin with: this place styles itself as 'London Luton'. Listen: it's not in London, and nobody in Luton or London thinks it is. It's in flippin' Bedfordshire, 35 miles from London and there's Hertfordshire in between. Assuming there's no road works, pile-ups, fog or the usual congestion it will take at least an hour to drive from Luton, Bedfordshire to London in London.
And... every time you go there, the layout is different. They've erected some new barriers, changed the access to the car park, moved the pay stations or somesuch. And they make you pay for everything; want a luggage trolley? That'll be a pound, thank you. Want to drop someone off? That'll be a pound, thank you. Picking someone up? One pound, thank you.
And another thing. If you're picking up a disabled person you can't go straight to the 'disabled' bit of the car park, leave the car and find the disabledee. You have to park, get yer ticket, find the cripple then, assuming they've got a Blue Cripples Badge, find a functionary who will do the necessary on your car park ticket to absolve you of the extortionate car park fee - not easy at 1.30 am. Meanwhile, although the airport functionaries will wheel the cripple in a wheelchair to the perimeter of the car park, they don't provide a luggage trolley. They use another wheelchair instead.
And you have to find all this out by yourself, through bitter experience. Harumph.

Monday, 20 June 2011

FabMary's Photos: Gigs

Over at FabMary's blog she mentions the difficulties red lights can cause a person when photographing your favourite teenage rockin' combo. Here's one she took at t'Albert Hall of His Highness Jeff Beck when the lighting guy went all blue. Quite nifty really. I like the way the audience are all sitting enthralled,  reflecting the blue light and, because he has a white light on him, Mr Beck is the only one with any other colour. Just goes to show that all you are ever actually photographing is light.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


About a month ago I invested in a new computer. Despite pressure from some quarters to buy a Macbook Pro, on grounds of budgetary responsibility I opted for a PC-type running Windows 7. The fact is you get more for your money - the equivalent Apple, although probably better qualty and more 'cool', would have cost three times as much. Moreover, there would have been some problems in training El Prez to use a Mac alongside the PC she uses at work. So here it is, and I'm quite chuffed with it, on the whole. An i5 processor, 640 gb hard drive, 4gb RAM. All the usual plugholes including an HDMI socket. Battery life is 2 and a bit hours in normal use. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Wot I Been Reading

Reading of books has taken a back seat of late as I have been studying Words and Music, a level 3 Open University course as part of a BA (Humanities) Degree. It has been hard going although often enjoyable and fascinating, and I have encountered lots of music (e.g. opera, South Asian, and Renaissance) which hitherto had been a mystery to me. Just at the minute I am struggling with an assignment in which I am required to compare Regis' Missa L'Homme Arme with Byrd's Magnificat. I am bound to say that I find the academic approach to music analysis a tad contrived and indulgent, not to say turgid. But there you go.
Any road up, I have managed to squeeze in a few tomes meanwhile, three of which are:
The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett - the twenty-somethingth book in the Discworld series. The story features Cohen the Barbarian leading The Silver Horde of ageing heroes as they seek to return fire to the Gods, with explosives as interest. The wizards and Lord Vetinari get involved to stop them, using a flying ship on, with hilarious results.
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A Abbott - written in 1884 as a satire on social hierarchy but intriguing as it challenges dimensional perception. He pretty much agrees with me that there may well be lots of dimensions we don't know about. Reassuring to discover this bloke had the same thought as me, one hundred years earlier, and I'm not as mad as the glazed looks I receive would suggest.
Riders of The Purple Sage by Zane Grey - his first successful book and definitive of the genre (ahem). It features religious and sexual oppression, cattle stampedes, shootings, heroism, horses, revenge and big hats.
Meanwhile, the fortnightly London Review of Books has been providing some erudite, incisive and informative reading matter including articles/reviews on subjects such as Laurent Gbagbo, the American Civil War, the Afterlife, higher education, espionage in World War II, and many more. Very stimulating - I only wish I could remember it all.


As you can see, the Entanglification Pixies have paid us another visit and conspired to muddle up a conglomeration of wires that do who knows what. Originally, all that I had in this spot was the loudspeaker, the wires from it to the amplifier, and the mains plug. Somehow or other, the wires have multiplied themselves and added bits of hardware which may or may not be connected to each other in some mysterious way unbeknownst to me. Not only would the Health & Safety Executive not be happy with this disarrangement but, given my ageing and failing eyesight, there is a serious risk I will tread on something here and render it unserviceable. Perhaps those responsible - if they be Earthly beings and not in some way connected with the Pixies and/or Maxwell's Demons - will do something about it.

Just When You Think It's All Over...

Panikos the builder and his chums finished the ramp and have installed a nice metal gate, which is perfectly upright and level. It's a pleasure to see craftsmen doing their jobs right.
So. El Presidente trotted on down to t'Town Hall and told 'em the job is finished and asked please can we have our Completion Certificate. Erm. no. Not yet. They have to inspect it, then do the paperwork and blah-de-blah and so forth, and then we have to pay another 100 Euros. Yer what? Yep, that's right - it's 50 Euros per Completion Certificate and we have to pay for two because we had to submit a revised planning application showing the changed kitchen wall. And after that, can we have our 200 Euro deposit back then? Erm, no. T'Council will be keeping back one third of that to cover potential road works.
Sometimes, you get the feeling they're making it up.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What's The Greek For Jobsworth?

When we are in Cyprus, we sign up for an Internet connection with the estimable state communications institution CYTA, which comes to us via the telephone line. We take out a 'temporary' subscription because it works out cheaper to pay the connection fee each time than to pay for a whole year's subscription. I haven't done the precise calculations but I think we would need to be there for six months at a stretch for it to be more economical otherwise. But if I was going to be there that long, I would investigate other suppliers. Sadly there is no cable in our bit of Larnaca.
Any road up, you'd think it would be straightforward enough to pop along to their office at the beginning and end of one's sojourn in the Isle of Aphrodite to fix this up. But no. When I went to get connected, CYTA refused as I am not the named telephone account holder (my wonderful spouse, El Presidente, is. At the time, she was still in Old Blighty.) They told me I had to get Power of Attorney if I wanted to use their service and borrow their modem. El Prez managed to get round the Jobsworthopoulos syndrome eventually by phoning their HQ from the UK and telling them what was what; HQ agreed to provide t'Internet and advised that she phone the manager of the Larnaca office and confirm that it was alright to deal with me. This was successful although, as insurance, I took my mother-in-law with me on my second visit to CYTA so that she could give them the look of death should there be any difficulty.
Both myself and El Prez have now returned to Blighty so I packed up all the gear and asked my mother-in-law to take it back to the CYTA office and to ask them to disconnect t'Internet. Imagine our bafflement when CYTA refused to accept the return of their modem and to disconnect because she is not the named account holder. Power of Attorney blah-de-blah. So El Presidente has been back on the phone to HQ to advise them once again what is what and to stop being silly billies. We await mother-in-law's report on the success or otherwise of her return visit.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Now That's What I Call a Designer Chair

Merryn Haines-Gadd is an ace furniture/product designer based in Oxfordshire. She also has a corny sense of humour. Featured in this month's Empire magazine is her Director's Chair which recycles old magazines. You could use any old magazines but this is a Director's Chair so she used old cinema magazines. More wizard ideas at her website here.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Saga Continues

Older readers will recall that the building of our flat here has not gone smoothly, either with the builder or the Larnaca Municipality. Nothing has changed in the months since we were last here.
We were refused a Building Completion Certificate because, inter alaia, we had not built a ramp to facilitate parking the car at the back of the house, so one of our first jobs this visit has been to get said ramp built, thanks to Panikos the other builder. That job done and all other outstanding matters completed, El Presidente contacted t'Council to ask for the Certificate. Of course, the relevant jobsworth was not available so we had to wait another day till he phoned us. Imagine our surprise when he told us we couldn't have the Certificate yet because we had to submit a revised application for planning permission to account for the kitchen wall being two feet from where it was on the original plan. Yer what?
El Presidente was immediately on the phone to Mr Dikiaos the architect to enquire about this alleged deficiency. At first, MrDikiaos claimed that he had prepared a revised application that he had given to us but after a short delay his secretary corrected him to point out that Dikiaos himself had handed it in to t'Council, and quoted the reference number. El Prez was thus back on to Mr Spyrou Jobsworthopoulos to advise him accordingly. "Oh, umm, I'll check it...Oh yes here it is..But you'll have to come in to the office tomorrow and pay us another 120 Euros to process it." Caramba, and other exclamations of disbelief. Meanwhile, of course, Mr Spyrou still has to visit the building to inspect the aforesaid ramp for himself. So it seems touch and go whether we'll get the Completion Certificate this visit.
The irony is that without the Certificate we can't get the Land Registry to amend the Deeds to the property, and while that remains outstanding the flat does not officially exist. And therefore the council can't charge us taxes for it. But what's the betting they try to backdate the taxes once the place is registered?
As for Marinos the psychotic builder (curse his name for the son of a dog), we have avoided contact altogether. But there remain some outstanding aspects such as the failure of the hot water and the inadequate drainage to be resolved. These will form several major bones of contention come September when Marinos (yeccch spit) will be expected to receive his final payment - which he ain't getting! (This one will run and run - Ed).

It's Suppertime Again!

The street outside our house continues to serve a double-purpose as a repair shop for motorcycles during the day and as a restaurant in the evening. Here we see workers from the Parliamentary Office enjoying a dinner of souvlakia etc, and being waited on by Dimitris, the son of George, proprietor of the taverna and second cousin of my mother-in-law. Presumably this was some work-related celebration or bonding exercise. Dimitris was quite chuffed to have these guys as customers as they will no doubt spread the word amongst their colleagues about the sheer excellence of the kebabs on offer.