Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fish Husbandry

Prince Philip is described by one of his grandsons as "wandering around like a fish" on the same day the tha Government decide that Fish Husbandry in schools isn't even worth a GCSE.

Who planned that?

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Living in the '80s?

Are we? 

We've just had David Attenborough yet again on Desert Island Discs
The Muppets are back
Adrian Mole is enjoying a renaissance
We have again got a stupid Tory, Eurosceptic government who don't listen to people
The Falklands are in the news
Iron Lady horror movie

... and we watched Gregory's Girl last night...

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Poem of the Week

Rhapsody on a Windy Night
T.S. Eliot

Twelve o'clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

Half-past one,
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, "Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin."

The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.

Half-past two,
The street lamp said,
"Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter."
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child's eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.

Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.

The lamp hummed:
"Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smoothes the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain."
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars."

The lamp said,
"Four o'clock,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life."

The last twist of the knife.


Famously, the British Museum used to have a form letter, which they would use to reply to many of the enquiries and questions they would receive each year about the collections, ancient history, culture so forth.  It read something like:
I regret to inform you that your letter has not been selected for reply.
Note the subtle paradox of a response telling the member of the public that this is just what he or she is not going to get.

I've now come across a more up-to-date equivalent for our modern world.  It reads:
I could find no compelling purpose in answering your email.
Plus ├ža change...

Thursday, 26 January 2012


...And according to the news this morning, the World's largest fast food chain (by number of stores) is opening 600 new outlets in the UK and Ireland. Lots more Subway...

Laverne Back

So 10 O-Clock Live is back in a couple of weeks.  WIll they have found out what to do with Lauren Laverne by then?


Bill Gates on R4 Today this morning sounded almost reasonable for long periods of time.

Eg taxes need to increase, and the taxes of the wealthy need to go up more than those of others. We shouldn't penalise the poorer off.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Unachieved silence

Adrian Mole has been sequestered by our 14 year old.

So I'm back with the Trees...

Sunday, 22 January 2012


I spent most of last week looking for my (our) copy of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (aged 13 3/4) - as it seems to be 30 years since it was published.  There have been several articles in the papers - mostly quoting lines I'd forgotten but which made me laugh out loud... I remember when it was originally serialised on the radio, too.

And it took me a week to find it, under piles of kipple.

Anyway, I have it now, so I'm not going to be very responsive for a while....

The Story of Film

I've just finished reading Mark Cousins' magisterial The Story of Film: A Worldwide History (2006).  This was the original book upon which his superb fifteen-hour TV series (The Story of Film: An Odyssey) was based.  There is also an updated version from last year following the TV programmes, but it is startlingly expensive and this earlier version is very good. 

Poem of the Week

She Walks in Beauty
By Lord Byron (George Gordon)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Saturday, 21 January 2012


Oops - I should have said!

Annibale Carracci Two Childen Teasing a Cat (1590).


I spent an hour in the dark looking at this painting last Wednesday...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


It has been wonderful today without Wikipedia.

Not because we support the US Government's stupid approach to copyright, but because it reminded us of all the other great sources of online information out there.

We say - switch it off once a month!  It'll be like dress down Friday....

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Poem of the Week

The Woman In The Rye
Thomas Hardy

'Why do you stand in the dripping rye,
Cold-lipped, unconscious, wet to the knee,
When there are firesides near?' said I.
'I told him I wished him dead,' said she.

'Yea, cried it in my haste to one
Whom I had loved, whom I well loved still;
And die he did. And I hate the sun,
And stand here lonely, aching, chill;

'Stand waiting, waiting under skies
That blow reproach, the while I see
The rooks sheer off to where he lies
Wrapt in a peace withheld from me.'


A while back I posted the famous Jenny Joseph poem about behaving badly as we get older.  You know the one: "... I will wear purple."  

Well, I've now taken the first step on that road, as I was given a beautiful palatinate purple T shirt for Christmas. 

It's a start!

Allen Stallone

So one thing that arived in the house over Christmas was a boxed set of early Woody Allen movies.  Last night we watched Sleeper as a family before oldest went back to University.  Good fun, and I remembered a fair part of it, but had forgotten the jazzy soundtrack.  At some level (giant chicken?) it reminded me of the Goodies in their heyday, which I hadn't expected at all.  How strange.

This morning I watched Bananas - which I'd always preferred, way back when, although it is somewhat more patchy.  There is a reasonably well-known scene between the Allen character and a couple of young hoodlums on the New York subway.  I was amazed to spot a very young Sylvester Stallone as one of the tearaways.

Cold and Frosty Morning

Chilly, with steam coming off fences where the sun hit them.  Strangely surreal.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Ok, so the notion that "ontogeny recapitulates philogeny" has been disproven (for some time) - but does ontology recapitulate epistemology?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Moffat Writes Sexist Sherlock?

The Guardian Web thing has a rather fun article on the most recent Sherlock episode, the Moffat re-imagining of A Scandal In Bohemia.  Jane Clare Jones argues that Moffat mishandles his woman characters and it shows particularly here.  "While Conan Doyle's original is hardly an exemplar of gender evolution, you've got to worry when a woman comes off worse in 2012 than in 1891."

Monday, 2 January 2012

Bert and...

OK.  I'm sure everyone else knew this, but I've just discovered that Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street were named after two characters from It's A Wonderful Life.  

Two Holmes in Quick Succession

OK, so having just seen the latest Sherlock Holmes movie we then sat down to watch the first in the new BBC Sherlock series. 

The film has more action, and I enjoyed the music.  The BBC version was more fun, better played, and truer to the original (not saying much).  I enjoyed the music of this one too. 

Um, that's about it.


As is usual with the Reviews in the Trees, personal stuff is mostly left out, so losses, achievements and events amongst family and friends will not appear here.  Also, this quick-and-dirty retrospective cannot equal Charlie Brooker's  magisterial review of last year just shown on TV.

I began the year reading the excellent Bill Bryson book on Shakespeare. This is very good not least because he tries hard not to put in any speculation that isn’t rigorously supported by the historical record. Hence, also, a rarity.

Three other books I enjoyed were
  • Graven with Diamonds by Nicola Shulman - about Sir Thomas Wyatt, his poetry, and mostly about his love lyrics. Although the core argument, that these had been neglected in the past, doesn’t really hold water, it was good to see a big bold book about Wyatt be favourably reviewed.
  • The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen. He is very good on democracy as a complex set of attitudes and processes, not just an opportunity every few years to vote for one’s leader(s).
  • The Disappearing Spoon: and Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean.  I wasn't totally won over by how this book is organised, but the sories were good.
Three exhibitions were:
  • The Steve Bell retrospective at the Cartoon Museum,
  • The British Library exhibition of (mostly) British science fiction, “Out of this World.” and
  • The Leonardo show at the National Gallery (which we just managed to get tickets for, and went to see on the last day of 2011).
And three shows:

On TV, the usual suspects dominated (eg Outnumbered, Rev and Doctor Who), plus, perhaps strangely, Mark Cousins' The Story of Film, which became unmissable each Sunday evening.

We went to France to avoid the Royal Wedding, and then later to Paris and Berlin for hols.

As lots of commentators have said, there was an awful lot of news in 2011.  The Japanese Tsunami and Nuclear fires, the Arab Spring, the Libyan uprising and death of Gaddafi. Obama got Osama, Hackergate and the closing of the News of the World (well done, The Guardian!), Riots in English towns and cities (which we missed), Lansley (tosser!)'s pause and Cameron's non-veto.  The Euro problems. And Private Eye made it to 50 (years) while The Sky at Night made it to 700 (shows)..

Quite a few rich and/or famous people seem to have died in the year.   Elisabeth (Sarah-Jane Smith) Sladen died of cancer in April at the relatively young age of 65 (63 elsewhere). She was probably most people’s favourite companion, and one of the few actors to work with several Doctors.   Gerry Rafferty, Peter Yates, Vaclav Havel, Henry Cooper (the great smelly brute) and Steve Jobs (who showed through his life that you can make huge amounts of money even if you have a crappy product, if you get the marketing right and make it shiny-shiny).    

Gilbert Adair, Christopher Logue, Christa Wolf, John Barry, Dick King-Smith, Joanna Russ, Pete Postlethwaite, January: Susannah York (a few months after I was her in a play in the West End), Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Lumet, Janet Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, Peter Falk, Ken Olsen (DEC), Brian Haw and Eddie Stobart.   N. F. Simpson, Ken Russell, Anne McCaffery, Stan Barstow, David Croft, Jimmy Saville, Basil D’Oliveira and Dulcie Gray.  Perhaps too many.

Oh, and I saw a lot of trees...