What I now feel able to say about Prince Philip

Nothing at all remarkable, just so you now know. Don’t read this posting for dazzling insights. It’s just that the last couple of days and the next few days are an example of a common thing, which is that everyone who is in the habit of expressing public opinions about this or that public thing feels obliged to hold back his or her regular opinions and instead to express an appropriately gracious and portentous opinion about whatever just happened.

For instance, BBC Radio Three, the classical music radio channel I listen to quite a lot, especially on Saturdays, was going to spend this Saturday concentrating on the life and works of Igor Stravinsky, no doubt emphasising what a fine composer the BBC thinks he was. But they scrapped this plan, and instead today merely played a succession of suitably profound and solemn classical selections, and also, I believe, a church service with lots of profound and solemn singing.

“Inappropriate” is typically now just a way of saying “wicked” without sounding like your great grandmother. But for once, this word is now, well, appropriate. Communicators suddenly fear saying anything “inappropriate”. Given that Prince Philip just died, will it make sense for us to be banging on about Stravinsky, or whatever it was were thinking of banging on about? Typically, it does not feel … appropriate.

Sporting events continue, because nothing can be allowed to interrupt that. But black armbands are liable to be worn and long silences endured by all present, during which all rebellious thoughts along the lines of “So bloody what?” are kept under heavy wraps of silence.

Above all, anyone who thinks that Prince Philip was, I don’t know, a horrid old racist, tends to keep quiet about that, for the duration of this strange public moment, or at least to be careful about who they say such things to. Or they do if they are wise, and if they do not want a storm of critical attention on social media, as some presumably do. We must not “speak ill of the dead”. Instead we say things like: “My thoughts are with his family”.

Which some of our thoughts probably are. I can’t be the only one now thinking that maybe the Queen will soon give up the ghost, having lost a husband she has been sharing her life with for so long, and by most public accounts very happily.

As it happens, the opinion I now find I want to express about Prince Philip, in carefully selected company, is a complaint although not that severe a complaint. I don’t think he was a racist; more like an equal opportunities tease, if only to get people to relax in his company and to stop trying to be so damn appropriate. But I definitely have one very particular and personal objection to this man, and by extension to his entire family. (It’s not a big enough objection for me to want them all denationalised, so to speak. As to that argument, I go along with the title of this posting at Quotulatiousness. If they got dumped, the likely alternative would be someone like John Berkow.)

But for now, in the event that you care what I think about Prince Philip and want to learn the particular way in which I objected to him, you will just have to wait.

For me to tell you today would be inappropriate.

The greatest ever sport weekend

Seriously, I can’t remember a weekend when there’s ever been more sport of the sort that I pay attention to. This particular weekend towards the beginning of February is usually pretty good, but this year it really has been remarkable.

It began with the second day of the India v England cricket test match, in the small hours of Saturday morning, and continued on Saturday morning with the final of the Big Bash in Australia. The Vince Sixers defeated the Livingstone Scorchers, teams which I thus name because all I care about in that tournament is how well the Brits do, and Vince did very well indeed. There was Premier League soccer to get excited about, which I do, a bit, both Saturday afternoon and evening and today afternoon and evening.

This was also the first weekend of the Six Nations, which is rugby union. Scotland beat England on Saturday, which was not nice, but this wasn’t because England were rubbish. It was because Scotland were not rubbish, and England were caught by surprise. Scotland being not rubbish made a nice change from the last twenty years or so of Scotland vying with Italy for bottom spot. All the Six Nations needs now is for Italy also to become a serious threat, and this tournament could enter a golden age of total unpredictability. But first up on Saturday, Italy were smashed again, by France. So that doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening any time soon.

Sunday morning. Day three of the India v England test match. England, having batted big, manage to get six Indian wickets. Afternoon, another six Nations, Wales beating Ireland. Soccer, with Spurs winning. Harry Kane back with Spurs and Spurs were accordingly back winning a game, which was nice. Then Man City thrashed Liverpool, and are now favourites, insofar as such a thing can exist in this anyone-can-beat-anyone season. Man City have an England guy called Foden, who everyone says is going to be really good. His goal at the end against Liverpool was quite something.

And now, late on Sunday evening and into Monday morning, it’s only the Super Bowl. Number 55, or Super Bowl LV as nobody says. Live on British TV. I’m watching the beginning of that now. Brady beating Mahomes 2-0 in touchdowns so far.

And then when that’s done, it’ll be straight back to the cricket out in India, also live on British TV. Day 4. Because the BBC is not being allowed to even commentate, let alone show video, of the cricket in India, they are pretty much ignoring it other than at their website, and are instead trying to get excited about tennis. There is apparently a big tennis tournament, going on somewhere on the planet, but I do not know or care where. All of which means that if I want to know how England are doing in that game, I have to get up and watch TV. Which I can do. Piece of piss, and of course it makes sense to combine it with that.

Which is a lot of sport. No wonder, this weekend, I have accomplished nothing. When I was middle aged, wondered if I’d still be paying attention to, and more to the point caring about, sport, when I got old. Turns out I still do. Especially the cricket and the rugby.

I hope you don’t mind the absence of links in this. My thinking is: If you care about any of these contests, you’ll already be linked into them. If you don’t care, then any link to whatever it is you don’t care about won’t add anything to your life.

Buggering on

According to GodDaughter2’s Dad in one of his recent emails, Churchill once said something about how we just have to keep buggering on. Either that or GD2D made this up. Anyway, that’s what I am now doing, as best I can.

Today started going to hell last night when the Royal Marsden rang to say that the telephone-appointment they had been saying for about a fortnight would be at 3.30pm might actually be at more like 11am! Which meant that cricket lag (which it turns out I am suffering from) came into play. Instead of sleeping during the small and then not-so-small hours of this morning, I instead had a succession of coughing fits, all made worse by the thought that, come the telephone-appointment, I would be struggling to stay awake. The only way to stop the coughing during the night was to get fully up, sandals, sweater, the lot, and sit for an hour or two in front of my computer like it was the day. Being vertical being the only way to stop the coughing. Maybe it’s just because I now have words for what is wrong with me, but my lungs, while I was coughing, seemed truly about to give up on me, if not now, then some time rather soon.

But at least, having got me up at the crack of 10.30am, the appointment was indeed at just after 11am, so there was that. So, back to bed for the afternoon, including a bit of sleep, and then an early evening during which various further details were sorted, to do with who would live my life for me in the event that I became incapable of living it myself. Once again my Senior Designated Friend was driving all that along. Without her, I’d not yet be dead but I’d probably be wishing I was.

Now, I am trying to avoid eating or drinking anything that might keep me awake for yet another night. Quite easy because today I consumed a massive fish pie at lunchtime. But will I sleep tonight? Weird how I can sleep through great chunks of one of the great fourth innings run chases of all time, but could not, last night, just sleep. So maybe it’ll be the same this coming night, with, again, no cricket to relax me.

Tomorrow, at a genuinely early time in the morning, I am off again to the Marsden, for a Covid jab and for research tests associated with that (they want to know how lung cancer sufferers react to the Covid jab), and I’ll also hope to be picking up an inhaler, to stop me coughing being the idea of that. We shall see. At least I’m finally getting the jab.

Just taken another daily magic anti-cancer pill. Will it ever have any effect on the cough? Like: end it. That would really be something.

On cricket and sleep

Last night India beat Australia, in Australia, and I listened to it on the radio. That is to say, I listened to a lot of it.

But, I didn’t listen to all of it. I know I didn’t listen to all of it because there were big jumps in the score. Shubman Gill went from being about fifty not out, to having been out quite a while ago for nearly a hundred. Pant did another huge jump and a couple of Indian wickets fell, in a similar memory-hole fashion, later in the “day”.

This is not a posting trying to make you like cricket. But, one very interesting feature of cricket is how statistically detailed the unfolding of the story is, and always has been. Football can go from 1-0 with an early goal, to 1-0 with no further goals, to 1-0 as in the early scoring team wins it. You could be listening to the radio commentary and nod off a bit, and not even really be sure that you had nodded off.

But cricket scoring never stops dead like that. Runs are continuously scored, wickets keep falling. Miss out on an hour of that, and you immediately realise that you missed a huge chunk.

So it is that I absolutely know for sure that I didn’t listen to all of the India v Australia cricket last night. I listened to India making a solid start, in their chase for over three hundred in the day. I definitely caught the end, when India won it. But for big bits in between, I was … asleep.

With sleep, the difference between a bit and none can be all the difference. For cricket lag, the cricket version of jet lag, to set in thoroughly, you need to be wide awake exactly when you shouldn’t be. In my recent experience, a bursting bladder, by requiring you to be physically active, is surer way to doing that then merely dozing in a bed, listening to cricket in foreign parts, parts of it.

Will I get a good night’s sleep tonight? At the regular time? Because of the above, I do not rule out the possibility.

Osimertinib

Yes, Osimertinib. It’s an anti-cancer drug. It derives its power to fight my particular cancer from a test having been done to determine the genetic nature of the cancer that I now have.

Journalists often like to describe those of us suffering from it as “battling” cancer. Well, with me, there is definitely battling going on, thank goodness, but I am only a very minor warrior in the battle. My major involvement is that my body is one of the many battlefields in which this sort of battle is happening. (I seem to recall that Christopher Hitchens said something like this in this.)

My “strategy”, if you can call it that, has been to proceed on the assumption that the judgement of the Royal Marsden’s cancer experts, about what will give me the best chance of a bit more life, is my best bet. I’m not second guessing these people. I have done very little reading to determine if their treatment makes sense. I am simply of the belief that their best guess is better than anything else available. Friends who have dug deeper, including my sister the former NHS GP, have given me no reason to doubt my bet. On the contrary, they agree about how very lucky I am to be living near to the Marsden.

I am taking my Osimertinib in the form of tablets, one each day, because this is what my seniors in the battle judge to be the best treatment. This evening, I just swallowed the sixth of a course of thirty such tablets that I have been proscribed. I have been told that right around now, I might start feeling rather better.

So, am I feeling any better? I think so, but I’m not sure. I have recently been rather ill. Headaches, shivery skin, weakness in the limbs, increased coughing, a runny nose, that sort of stuff. This felt like it was the cancer getting worse. But what if I was just, you know, ill, as a distinct thing? And is all of that illness getting less bad now? Rather hard to say, but I would say, probably, yes. It all feels complicated.

I have retreated into my comfort zone. By doing daily postings for here. By keeping more than half a nocturnal ear on the cricket, both in Australia and in Sri Lanka. By listening to music and reading stuff. And, in addition to more nutritional stuff, I’ve been having occasional servings of salt and caramel ice cream. Basically I am taking the pills, and waiting for them to work.

Wish me luck.

Norman Lebrecht has a go at Barenboim (and Igor Levit is not a God either)

I actually don’t think that the things Norman Lebrecht quotes star classical pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim saying about the nature of the Covid ordeal now being suffered by him and his fellow musicians and performers are really that terrible. Barenboim was trying to get across the all-embracing inescapability of the thing. He compared it to World War 2, pointing out that there were places in the world where you could escape from that war. True, he might had been wise to add a phrase like “if you were lucky”. Because as Lebrecht then argues, millions were not so lucky, could not escape World War 2 and suffered horrors and deaths way worse that anything now being endured by all but the most unlucky of the Covid generation.

Concludes Lebrecht:

This is a really unwise statement.

Maybe, but personally I doubt it. I would say that, for once, this is a case where “clarification” is really all that should be needed, and maybe not even that. It was clear enough what Barenboim was at least trying to say.

But what I do relish about Lebrecht is his willingness to disagree in public with classical music’s various star performers when they express what he considers to be foolish opinions outside of their core competence. And in general, when he reckons they are not doing their jobs well enough to justify their often stonkingly unequal remuneration.

Especially when you consider the kind of power that people like Barenboim wield from their perches at the top of the musical world, often without even realising it.

And, when you consider the crawling reverence with which these people are now mostly treated by such broadcasting organisations as the BBC.

I have a recording from off the radio of a Proms performance of Beethoven’s third piano concerto (which is one of my very favourite pieces), in which rising star pianist Igor Levit was the soloist. And very well he played it. (I happen greatly to prefer Levit’s way with this concerto to how Barenboim is in the habit of playing it.) But the spoken BBC intro, particularly as perpetrated by the BBC’s Petroc Trelawney, was some of the most grovellingly ridiculous verbiage I have recently heard on a serious radio station. Based on how Levit plays this concerto, and having heard him play Bach and Beethoven solo piano music that I happen also to own on CD, I think Levit is a fine pianist. But Trelawney spoke about Levit’s trick, to take a particularly ridiculous example, of bringing a bar of chocolate with him to fortify him during a hard evening of piano playing as if this were evidence that Levit is some sort of Higher Being, far above us mortals. It was embarrassing.

Norman Lebrecht, I think, often grabs hold of whatever stick he happens to be shaking at the wrong end. He is a man of impulse, and I think this often leads him astray. But he is right that this kind of grovelling to the big beasts of classical music should stop.

A 1950s YouTube video about cricket

Still gummed-up. Just too many things open, I assume.

One particular gummer-upper is leaving YouTube Videos open and paused.

Like this short bit of film (a bit over a quarter of an hour long) done in 1950 by the British Council about cricket and its magically universal, quasi-religious appeal. GodDaughter2’s Dad sent me the link to this many weeks ago, and I started watching, cringed a bit, but then, still determined to force myself to watch it all, in all its post-WW2, pre-Sixties non-glory, I kept the thing paused and open, until now.

In 1950 everyone English loved cricket, and assembled in suits at Lord’s to watch or, if they were a member of the miserable majority for whom that was impossible, no matter. All civilised or would-be civilised people, everywhere on earth, could listen to the cricket on the radio, thanks to John Arlott and his posh colleagues. Arlott himself spoke a bit un-posh, which meant that everyone could love cricket. Although of course, you were, then, ideally English-posh, you didn’t have to be English-posh. You merely had to aspire to that happy state, and who on earth, in 1950, did not do that? Then? Nobody. Look, even people in turbans could play or attend to cricket, no matter what their colour or their creed, or how amusingly and wrongly they spoke English, i.e. in the opposite way to the way other-narrator (besides Arlott) Ralph Richardson spoke English. You could be an Or-stralian, non-posh, even non-white and non-Christian and talk English like a music hall joke character covered in black make-up, and still be part of cricket. Cricket was ultra-inclusive.

There follow a string of comments to the effect that the world is crap now compared to what it was in the 1950s. (I dissent. For starters, I can now have a blog. Nobody could have a blog in 1950. Also, I enjoy T20 cricket as well as the day-after-day-after-day version of cricket which was all they had back in 1950.)

It all makes a fascinating contrast to the equivalent efforts now being made to make cricket really, properly inclusive, in the form of pieces of writings like this, by ESPN’s Daniel Brettig, about all the micro-aggressions that non-white cricket people still have to put up with these days, but really, really should not have to.

Ivor Cummins speaks to Niall Boylan

Yesterday. As an (I hope) intelligent layman, I am finding this radio interview to be at a very helpful level, so to speak, of scientific complexity. There’s plenty of science, but it is well explained.

Ivor Cummins’s work experience, so his Twitter feed tells us, has been as a “team leader” and as a “complex problem solving specialist”, which I take it means that he has experience of leading people with very varied types of expertise. So, he has lots of practice in talking clearly, in plain English, to enable such teams to work together effectively. With regard to each particular type of expertise being deployed, all the other experts in other areas are also “intelligent laymen”, so the man in charge has to be good an explaining complicated stuff clearly, to people not expert in it. So, I believe Cummins’s background has prepared him for the historically huge role he is now performing. The world now needs people to pull all the expertise of others together and to explain it convincingly, and from where I’m sitting, Cummins, more than anyone else, seems to be the man who is doing this.

Boris Johnson thinks he’s now Churchill in 1940, or at least he did a couple of months ago. Cummins isn’t Churchill either, but he’s a hell of a lot closer to being Churchill than Johnson is. Johnson thought that the “Nazi hoards” equivalent now was Covid itself, and he probably still does. But the real Nazi hoard equivalent is the crazy, panic-stricken and politically driven over-reactions to Covid. That’s what’s now doing the serious damage. And Boris Johnson is more like Lord Haw-Haw.

No sport and strange sport

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that one of the weirdest features of what you might describe as “classic Lockdown”, Lockdown when Lockdown was at its most Lockeddown, was the complete absence of professional sport for a sports fan like me to be keeping half an eye on. Nothing. Whole months would go by with nothing of a sporting nature distracting me, either in the morning (cricket), in the afternoon (soccer), in the evening (soccer again), or in the night (cricket in faraway places). A lot of the reason why this blog accelerated around then was this total lack of sport to distract me.

Now, almost equally weirdly, we are having a spell of professional sport with no studio audiences present, but with all the electronics going strong and telling the likes of me about it all.

This morning I tuned in to the final day of test match cricket this summer, the radio version, and of course it was, as predicted, rain stopped play. So instead, they were replaying that amazing last wicket stand between Stokes and Leach that won the test match against Australia at Headingley. This was apparently exactly one year ago today. At first, they introduced this, and then everything stopped. It took me a while to work out why. It was because I can’t stand listening to cricket commentaries where they have spliced in an “atmosphere” backing. I just want to hear what they’s saying with no blatantly fictional crowd noises bolted onto the back of it. And that was why the commentary from a year ago wasn’t working. The default setting for TMS includes the fake atmosphere, and only when I switched to that did the commentary from a year ago kick in.

And I listened to that whole last wicket stand. Having already watched it a while back, on YouTube. I really like radio commentaries. And I find that I get surprisingly little more from actually seeing it on television. Oh, I do get some more, but not as much more as you might suppose. And when it came to this unique passage of play, exactly one year ago, listening to the radio version, which was what I did first time around, proved at least as gripping as watching it on TV.

I think this could be the consequence of my childhood, when radio was an option, and only later in my childhood did the telly cut in. From about six to around ten, all I had was radio, and I loved it.

Something similar happened to me with classical music on the radio. That started even younger, with my mother controlling the radio nobs, not me in my baby chair. But presumably she kept it on because I seemed to like it, and also because it is universally understood, by the sort of person my mother was, that classical music is Good For You, like green vegetables and like the ancient latin and ancient greek I was made to do at school, despite the lack of moral uplift supplied by classical music to the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Adolf Hitler.

England v Pakistan: No spectators and all the time in the world

The first test match between England and Pakistan could be a terrible disappointment, for England fan me. But, as I write this now, it could get special. England are chasing 277, I think it is, in the fourth innings. Pakistan got a first innings lead of over a hundred, but then got bowled out for only 169, so England appear to have a chance. It’s the morning of the fourth day now, so England have two days to get those runs. Nobody is at the ground watching, other than the players not out on the pitch and the ground staff and the TV and radio commentators. But it turns out that mere spectators at the ground aren’t necessary for test cricket to be thoroughly absorbing. Test cricket can be played in front of a live studio audience. But if it isn’t, nothing important seems to change.

Basically, if England start losing wickets now, as they well might according to what I’m hearing about plays and misses, then Pakistan will surely win later today, by quite a lot. If England can somehow hang about until tomorrow, they have a chance.

Oh dear. England one down already.

LATER:

England are nevertheless now hurtling towards their target.

LATER: Three quick wickets. England now four down and sinking fast. Shame. Looks like being all over today. The next LATER in this looks being that.

LATER: Well if you follow the first link at the top of this you will now know what a win this was for England, and with the final day not needed. Following those dots above, England lost a flurry of wickets and were at one point 117-5. But Buttler and Woakes turned it around, first by counter-attacking (that being why the final day was not needed) and then by, well, just batting. Buttler got out before the end, but Woakes stayed to the end.

The weird thing is: It would be logical if both Buttler and Woakes now got dropped. Buttler kept wicket very badly, and his batting has not usually been nearly this good. Woakes might be dropped if Stokes is fit to bowl. Given that Stokes actually did some bowling, he surely will be able to bowl. More likely though is that Buttler will stay, and they’ll hope he keeps better in the future. And Anderson will get dropped. Wibble wibble wibble. What the hell do I know? What a game.