Merry Christmas – Happy New Year – 50 percent off

Jan 6 is the last day for being Christmassy, right? Twelfth Night? After today, all things Christmas forbidden?

So, having taken these early this evening, through the front window of the Oxfam shop in Strutton Ground, they have to go up now, or just join the queue to be Christmassy next Christmas, which means never.

So, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, 50% off, to all my readers:

Also a turkey, a squirrel, a robin, two rabbits, a reindeer, and some crackers. And that really is Christmas and the New Year totally done. Happy middle of January to all.

It seems that the consensus is that Twelfth Night is actually Jan 5:

People believed that tree spirits lived in festive decorations and while you look after them over Christmas, if you don’t release them afterwards this could have consequences for the rest of the year. They also believed that vegetation would not grow and there would be agricultural problems and food shortages.

I instinctively feel that the same thing applies to displaying Christmas cards in your shop window. Gives a whole new meaning to the word Oxfam.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Pigs don’t pig out

Today, in Lower Marsh, I met up with a friend for some friendly tech support, and this being Friday, both before and after that, I was on the look out for Cats and/or Other Creatures related photo-opportunities.

I also like antique vehicles.

So, I was delighted to encounter this:

The Cat’s Back presents:

Pig Out Rolling Gourmet Kitchen.

But, is it fair to describe the human propensity to over-eat as “pigging out”?

Humans definitely describe their uniquely relentless fascination with sex, all the year round, as “animal”, but most animals only get sexually excited during their – usually pretty short – mating seasons. Humans are surely among the very few creatures whose mating season is: always. So that isn’t fair. This makes me suspect that we blaim pigs for overeating when actually they don’t. But, what do I know?

Google google.

Here we go:

Most of a pig’s day is spent foraging and eating. The end of their snout has as many tactile receptors as the human hand, and is a highly specialised and sensitive tool. This, along with their exceptional sense of smell, enables pigs to locate and uncover tasty treats such as seeds, roots, and truffles. Unlike dogs or humans, pigs never dangerously overeat – even when given access to unlimited food.

Blog and learn, assuming that is right. Not: pig out. Dog out, maybe? But dogging already means a form of human sex (see above), so dogging out wouldn’t do at all. (Mind you, I have to admit that dogs seem to have a permanent mating season also.)

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Slight celebrity similarity

For ages now, I’ve had these two pictures hovering about on my screen waiting to be put next to each other on my blog and then forgotten about, because they look quite like each other:

But, do they look enough like each other for it to be interesting? Maybe not. But there are times when you have to say to yourself: It’s only blogging.

On the left: Shakib-Al-Hasan, noted Bangladesh cricket allrounder. On the right, what he will turn into when a little bit older, or would if he had whiter skin: noted American actor Gary Sinise. Photos found here and here.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The sky pool is coming

I’ve not yet finished what was going to be today’s posting, so here, to be going on with, is a link to this Londonist list of eleven things to look forward to in London in 2018. From their list, my bronze, silver and gold medalists are:

Bronze: Crossrail.

Silver: The new Spurs stadium.

Gold: The swimming pool in the sky.

Here is what that Gold medalist will, we must all hope, look like:

Says Londonist:

It’s been over two years since it was announced that London was getting a swimming pool in the sky, right next to the new U.S. Embassy, and it’s finally diving onto the London skyline in 2018. The bad news: it’s not for you – unless you are one of the lucky few who could afford to splash out on an apartment in Nine Elms’ Embassy Gardens development (starting price £602,000). The rest of us will have to make do with our local leisure centre.

But I don’t want to live there. What I want to know is: Will I be able to photo other people swimming in the sky pool? I’m guessing it’ll be out of public sight.

Maybe you are thinking: Yes, but that’s a bit pervey. If you are thinking that, I agree. It is. But the best photos often are.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

I like Prince Albert’s backing

Many decades ago, there was a TV show called Juke Box Jury. I liked it best when someone said: “I like the backin’.” Subsequently, upon maturer reflection, I felt that I was quite right to zero in on that dictum, and I still do. So often, with pop music, it is the musical backing, rather than the mere singing, which turns pop inadequacy into something distinctive and entertaining.

Something similar can be said for photography. When a Real Photographer (LINK TO THE OLD BLOG) friend of mine was once upon a time telling me about how to do photoing, he too said: get the background right.

All of which is the preamble to this photo, which I took this afternoon, and the backin’ of which I like a lot:

That is a statue (so far so obvious) of (not so obvious) Prince Albert. When you image google for “Prince Albert statue London”, you get a lot of photos of him in golden splendour, seated inside his Memorial in Hyde Park, but not so many photos of this one. Judging by the other photos I did find of it, here, here (he calls it “the politest statue in London”) and here, this statue has recently been cleaned.

I am surprised at how much I have come to like statues, and public sculpture in general. Three of the photos in this posting of mine, which I linked to from here yesterday evening, are of public sculptures, two of them statues, of Beau Brummell and of Anna Pavlova. I didn’t plan this. It just turned out that way.

Happy New Year, by the way. I’ve had a good 2018, so far.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Ashes Lag strikes

I was surprised and distressed at how quickly and completely England lost the Ashes. They lost the first three tests and that was it. From then on, the important thing was for them to stop 3-0 turning into 5-0.

Why is that when we beat Australia, it ends something like 2-1 or 3-1 or 3-2, but never 5-0? But when Australia beats us, as often as not it is 5-0. So, good that this has not happened this time around. Dead rubber? Bollocks. 5-0 is a hell of a lot worse than 3-0 or (I can hope) 3-1.

Judging by previous 5-0s down under, England might still have lost game four, after Cook had scored his double hundred and given England a first innings lead of 160 odd. Australia have a very good spinner, and England do not.

Warne of Australia. Swann of England. Now: Lyon of Australia. A good spinner sustains pressure all the way through to the next new ball, and can win the match on the final day. Without a good spinner, you get those easy overs, when a bit of slogging can swing the match decisively in favour of the batting side, and you don’t get to win on the last day nearly so much.

In this latest Melbourne game, what if Australia had got themselves a lead of 150 and then bowled England out on the last afternoon? It could have happened. But luckily for England, it rained on day four, and England were able to save the game. All the commentators said that the rain spoiled England’s chance of a win, but what do they know? They were there, and were obviously getting caught up in it all, failing to see the wood for the trees. Trees: England might have won. Wood: England did not lose! Hurrah!

But from where I lie, in my bed but not sleeping because there were England doing so well on the radio, not losing, the important issue was: I wasn’t sleeping. And I am now suffering from serious Ashes Lag.

This afternoon, Chelsea thrashed Stoke at football, and according to the BBC Premier League update feed (which I had been keeping half an eye on), Stoke supporters, despite having journeyed to Chelsea all the way from darkest Stoke, were leaving after twenty minutes, because their team were such rubbish. I’m like that. If my team is getting hammered, I don’t want to be obsessing about that. I have a life, and I welcome the chance to ignore sport and get on with it. But if my team are doing okay, I’m all over it. So Ashes Lag has only now struck.

I mentioned yesterday that I was knackered, but too knackered to explain why I was knackered, and that I might (or might not) explain why I was knackered, later. The above was why I was knackered.

BMdotcom. The blog that promises nothing, but sometimes delivers!

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Southwark Cathedral from the train

This evening I had a party at my home. All the people I invite to my Last Friday of the Month meetings were invited, and almost exactly the same number of people showed up as tend to show up for the meetings. How do they do this?

I am now completely knackered, but it wasn’t the party alone that knackered me; it was … alas, I find that I am too knackered to explain. Maybe, although I promise nothing, later.

So instead, a quota photo, of Southwark Cathedral not being dwarfed by modernity:

Taken out of the train window, on my way to Hither Green.

Spot the Gherkin.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Granny Weatherwax does not allow inequality

For years now, I’ve wanted to nail down a particularly choice Terry Pratchett quote, concerning the limits of the idea of equality, which is that for there to be equality, someone has or some people have to insist upon it, and if that insistence is to count for anything, then there goes your equality. My problem was that I didn’t have the name of the character that the quote was about.

But today, I described the quote as best I could to my friend Adriana, and she told me at once that the name of the lady in question was Granny Weatherwax. And once I had the name, the rest was easy.

The quote I was looking for is the second from the bottom of these Quotes About Granny Weatherwax:

“Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?’

‘Oh no!’ said Miss Level, looking shocked. ‘Witches are all equal. We don’t have things like head witches. That’s quite against the spirit of witchcraft.’

‘Oh, I see,’ said Tiffany.

‘Besides,’ Miss Level added, ‘Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing.”

That is to be found in A Hat Full of Sky.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Another quote and two more photos

Last night, egged on by some Southern Comfort and Coke, I sneaked a posting onto Samizdata, at a very quiet time of the year, and after a long break from doing anything there. I wonder how often, in human history, far more portentous events than that have been set in motion by the power of alcohol to turn “maybe later” into “what the hell I’ll do it now”.

The posting started with a photo of five hands holding five plastic glasses of something alcoholic. Here is another photo of the same scene, at the top of Primrose Hill, this time with one of the participants also doing a photo:

And then I showed a photo of Perry de Havilland, taken on Christmas Eve at his home. Here is another such photo, rather less exuberant:

And I ended with a quote garnered from Deidre McCloskey’s The Bourgeois Virtues. Page 61 of my paperback edition features five such quotes. I put one of these, from Benjamin Constant (and added that link to that piece about him) in the Samizdata posting. Here is another, from Voltaire, dated 1733:

I don’t know which is the more useful to the state, a well-powdered lord who knows precisely when the king gets up in the morning … or a great merchant who enriches his country, sends orders from his office to Surat or to Cairo, and contributes to the well-being of the world.

Neither do I know “which is more useful to the state”. But I know which one isn’t contributing to the well-being of the world and which one is. I think Voltaire rather gives his game away there.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog