Monday, 27 February 2012

Poem of the Week

Sonnet. To A Lady Seen For A Few Moments At Vauxhall
John Keats

Time's sea hath been five years at its slow ebb,
Long hours have to and fro let creep the sand,
Since I was tangled in thy beauty's web,
And snared by the ungloving of thine hand.
And yet I never look on midnight sky,
But I behold thine eyes' well memory'd light;
I cannot look upon the rose's dye,
But to thy cheek my soul doth take its flight.
I cannot look on any budding flower,
But my fond ear, in fancy at thy lips
And hearkening for a love-sound, doth devour
Its sweets in the wrong sense: -- Thou dost eclipse
Every delight with sweet remembering,
And grief unto my darling joys dost bring.

Not the Poem of the Week

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold—
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
(A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Sc 1)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Almost Unbreakable Play

So last night we went to see the new version of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Lyric Theatre.  Designed and staged by Filter, it both dramatically messes up and is wholly faithful to the original.  With a mystery Bottom.

I would very, very much recommend that you buy, beg, borrow or steal tickets to go and see it.  Oh, and organise one for me too - I'd definitely go again.

Of course, AMND is pretty much proof against failure, so long as you have a bunch of actors and some kind of idea.  But this is remarkable and wonderful.

Michael Billington admired it in The Guardian too, but don't read his review - too many spoilers.  He also writes that  It may be a Dream best enjoyed by those who know the play backwards - which I think is  wrong, from the audience I saw.    Go, now, and see what you think

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Watching an old HIGNIFY last night, (sigh, why, you might ask), Andy Hamilton in the context of creationism, the tea party, etc: "You have to sympathise with Obama. It must be hard to govern a country that views facts as the work of the devil..."

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Poem of the Week

The Tournament of Tottenham

Of all thes kene conquerours to carpe it were kynde,
Of fele feghtyng folk ferly we fynde,
The turnament of Totenham have we in mynde.
It were harme sych hardynes were holden byhynde,
In story as we rede,
Of Hawkyn, of Herry,
Of Tomkyn, of Terry,
Of them that were dughty
And stalworth in dede.

It befel in Totenham on a dere day
Ther was mad a schartyng be tho hy-way.
Theder com al the men of tho contray,
Of Hyssylton, of Hygatte, and of Hakenay,
And all the swete swynkers.
Ther hepped Hawkyn,
Ther daunsed Dawkyn,
Ther trumped Tomkyn -
And all were trewe drynkers -

Tyl the day was gon and evynsong past
That thay schuld rekyn ther scot and ther contes cast.
Perkyn tho potter into tho press past,
And sayd: "Rondol tho refe, a doghter thu hast,
Tyb the dere.
Therfor wyt wold I
Whych of all thys bachelery
Were best worthy
To wed hur to hys fere."

Up styrt thos gadelyngys with ther long staves,
And sayd: "Rondol tho refe, lo, thos lad raves!
Baldely amang us thy doghter he craves,
And we er rycher men then he and more god haves
Of catell and corn."
Then sayd Perkyn to Tybbe: "I have hyght
That I schal be alway redy in my ryght,
If that it schuld be thys day sevenyght,
Or ellis yet to-morn."

Then sayd Randolfe the refe: "Ever be he waryed
That about thys carpyng lenger wold be taryed!
I wold not my doghter that scho were myscaryed,
But at hur most worschyp I wold scho were maryed.
Therfor a turnament schal begyn
Thys day sevenyght,
With a flayl for to fyght.
And that ys of most myght
Schall brouke hur with wynne.

Whoso berys hym best in the turnament,
Hym schull be granted the gre be the comon assent,
For to wynne my doghter with dughtyness of dent,
And Coppeld, my brode henne, was broght out of Kent,
And my donnyd kowe.
For no spens wyl I spare,
For no catell wyl I care:
He schal have my gray mare
And my spottyd sowe."

Ther was many bold lad ther bodyes to bede.
Than thay toke thayr leve and homward thay yede,
And all the woke afterward thay graythed ther wede,
Tyll it come to the day that thay suld do ther dede.
Thay armed ham in mattes,
Thay set on ther nollys
(For to kepe ther pollys)
Gode blake bollys,
For batryng of battes.

Thay sowed tham in schepe-skynnes for thay suld not brest;
Ilkon toke a blak hat insted of a crest,
A harow brod as a fanne aboune on ther brest,
And a flayle in ther hande for to fyght prest;
Furth gone thay fare,
Ther was kyd mekyl fors
Who schuld best fond hys cors.
He that had no gode hors
He gat hym a mare.

Sych another gadryng have I not sene oft!
When all the gret company com rydand to the croft
Tyb on a gray mare was set upon loft,
On a sek ful of federys for scho schuld syt soft,
And led hur to tho gap.
For cryeng of al the men
Forther wold not Tyb then,
Tyl scho had hur gode brode-hen
Set in hur lap.

A gay gyrdyl Tyb had on, borwed for the nonys,
And a garland on hur hed, ful of rounde bonys,
And a broche on hur brest, ful of safer stonys,
With tho haly rode tokenyng was wretyn for tho nonys;
No catel was ther spared.7
When joly Gyb saw hur thare,
He gyrd so hys gray mere
That sche lete a faucon fare
At the rereward.

"I vowe to God," quod Herry, "I schal not lefe behende!
May I mete with Bernard on Bayard tho blynde
Ich man kepe hym out of my wynde,
For what-so-ever that he be befor me I fynde,
I wot I schul hym greve."
"Wele sayd," quod Hawkyn,
"And I avow," quod Dawkyn,
"May I mete with Tomkyn
Hys flayl I schal hym refe."

"I vow to God," quod Hud, "Tyb, sone schal thu se
Whych of all this bachelery grant is tho gre.
I schal scomfet thaym all for tho love of thee,
In what place so I come thay schul have dout of me!
Myn armes ar so clere:
I bere a reddyl and a rake,
Poudred with a brenand drake,
And thre cantells of a cake
In ych a cornare."

"I vow to God," quod Hawkyn, "yf I have the gowt,
Al that I fynde in tho felde presand here aboute,
Have I twyes or thryes redyn thurgh the route,
In ych a stede ther thay me se of me thay schal have doute
When I begyn to play.
I make a vow that I ne schall
(But yf Tybbe wyl me call
Or I be thryes doun fall)
Ryght onys com away."

Then sayd Terry and swore be hys crede:
"Saw thu never yong boy forther hys body bede!
For when thay fyght fastest and most ar in drede,
I schal take Tyb by tho hand and hur away lede!
I am armed at the full;
In myn armys I bere wele
A dogh trogh and a pele,
A sadyll withouten a panell,
With a fles of woll."

"I vow to God," quod Dudman, and swor be the stra,
"Whyls me ys left my mere thu getis hur not swa;
For scho ys wele schapen and lyght as the ro,
Ther ys no capul in thys myle befor hur schal go.
Sche wil me noght begyle:
She wyl me bere, I dar wele say,
On a lang somerys day,
Fro Hyssylton to Hakenay,
Noght other half myle."

"I vow to God," quod Perkyn, "thu spekis of cold rost.
I schal wyrch wyselyer, withouten any bost:
Fyve of tho best capullys that ar in thys ost,
I wot I schal thaym wynne and bryng thaym to my cost,
And here I grant tham Tybbe.
Wele, boyes, here ys he
That wyl fyght and not fle,
For I am in my jolyté
With jo for to gybbe."

When thay had ther vowes made, furth gan they hye,
With flayles and hornes and trumpes mad of tre.
Ther were all the bachelerys of that contré;
Thay were dyght in aray as tham selfe wold be.
Thayr baners were ful bryght,
Of an old raton fell;
The cheverone of a plow-mell
And tho schadow of a bell,
Poudred with mone-lyght.

I wot it ys no chyldergame whan thay togedyr met,
When ich a freke in tho feld on hys felay bet,
And layd on styfly, for nothyng wold thay let,
And faght ferly fast tyll ther horses swet,
And fewe wordys spoken.
Ther were flayles al to-slatred,
Ther were scheldys al to-flatred,
Bollys and dysches al to-schatred,
And many hedys brokyn.

Ther was clynkyng of cart-sadellys and clattiryng of connes;
Of fele frekis in tho feld brokyn were ther fannes.
Of sum were the hedys brokyn, of sum tho brayn panes,
And yll ware they be-seyn or thay went thens
With swyppyng of swepyllys.
The boyes were so wery for-fught
That thay myght not fyght mare oloft,
But creped then abaut in the croft,
As they were croked crepyls.

Perkyn was so wery that he began to loute:
"Help, Hud, I am ded in thys ylk rowte!
A hors for forty pens, a gode and a stoute,
That I may lyghtly come of my noye out,
For no cost wyl I spare."
He styrt up as a snayle,
And hent a capul be tho tayle,
And raght Dawkyn hys flayle,
And wan ther a mare.

Perkyn wan fyve and Hud wan twa.
Glad and blythe thay ware that thay had don sa;
Thay wold have tham to Tyb and present hur with tha.
The capull were so wery that thay myght not ga,
But styl gon thay stand.
"Allas," quod Hudde, "my joye I lese.
Me had lever then a ston of chese
That dere Tyb had al these,
And wyst it were my sand."

Perkyn turnyd hym about in that ych thrange;
Among thos wery boyes he wrest and he wrang.
He threw tham doun to tho erth and thrast thaim amang,
When he saw Tyrry away with Tyb fang,
And after hym ran.
Of hys hors he hym drogh
And gaf hym of hys flayl inogh.
"We te-he!" quod Tyb, and lugh,
"Ye er a dughty man!"

Thus thay tugged and rugged tyl yt was nere nyght.
All the wyves of Totenham come to se that syght,
With wyspes and kexis and ryschys ther lyght,
To fech hom ther husbandes that were tham trouth-plyght.
And sum broght gret harwes
Ther husbandes hom for to fech,
Sum on dores and sum on hech,
Som on hyrdyllys and som on crech,
And sum on welebaraws.

Thay gaderyd Perkyn about everych syde,
And grant hym ther the gre, the more was hys pride.
Tyb and he with gret myrthe homward con thay ryde,
And were al nyght togedyr tyl the morntyde,
And thay in fere assent.
So wele hys nedys he has sped
That dere Tyb he had wed.
The pryse folk that hur led
Were of the tornament.

To that ylk fest com many for the nones;
Some come hyphalt and sum tryppand on the stonys,
Sum a staf in hys hand and sum two at onys,
Of sum were the hedys broken, and sum tho schulder-bonys;
With sorow com thay thedyr.
Wo was Hawkyn, wo was Herry,
Wo was Tomkyn, wo was Terry,
And so was al the bachelary,
When thay met togedyr.

At that fest thay were servyd with a ryche aray,
Ever fyve and fyve had a cokenay.
And so thay sat in jolyté al the lang day,
And at the last thay went to bed with ful gret deray.
Mekyl myrth was them amang,
In every corner of the hous
Was melody delycyous,
For to here precyus,
Of six menys sang.

Monday, 13 February 2012

On Tottnum

So. Tottenham, from whence I hail, seems recently to have become the place de jour.  Whatevva that means.
Source of riots. 
Source of rebellion against nasty UK Education minister.
Source of new England footie manager. 
Source of multi award-winning pop artiste. 
What next?

Sunday, 12 February 2012


I've gone on record before to explain how much I detest the Shard - the huge skyscraper currently being built at London Bridge.  It will apparently be Europe's largest, and I still think it ugly, uneecessary and horribly wrong.

However, I read the other week that it will actually be an arcology.  That's right, a huge mega-structure, just like in Oath of Fealty and all those other skiffy novels.  So I had a look to see if it could be so, and eventually I found this on Wikipedia:-
The completed Shard will contain premium office space, a hotel, luxury residences, retail space, restaurants, a 15-storey public viewing gallery, and a spa.[26] A public viewing gallery will be located at the top of the tower, and is expected to draw over two million visitors a year.
So there you go.  Not an arcology, not even close.  No sense of independence from surrounding urban infrastucture, no self-sufficiency, no sense of heightened population dansity. It would have to be much bigger to qualify.  I'm not sure, but if the Shard was that much bigger I might just prefer it.  At least it would be more interesting.

However, I said I 'eventually' found that Wikipedia quote.  Because when I searched for 'shard' and 'arcology' the first hit I got said:- Arcologies on the Moon.  How could I not spend some time there?

So, this can be found on the relevant pages at
If an ancient alien civilization built a city on Mars, Hoagland reasoned, why not on the moon and on Earth itself! Looking at photos taken during the lunar missions, including those taken during the Apollo lunar manned landings, he discovered several anomalies. Upon further investigation, he has found that there are immense "crystalline" cities on the moon that are even more advanced than the Cydonia buildings and a small, select group of people within NASA have probably known about them from the beginning of the space program! ...

In September, 1992, a few days after lift-off of Mars Observer, Richard Hoagland acquired a lunar atlas compiled by the Space Science Laboratory of North American Aviation, Inc. At first glance, each photo resembled the next - distance and close-up, craters and maria. Then his eye fell to the south-east corner of page 241, where the crater Triesnecker first appeared in the collection. One xerox enlargement later, and Richard knew he had taken his first step on what was to become the first stage of a new research project bridging the gap between the Earth, Mars and now the Moon...
This extraordinary photo revealed an unmistakable image of an equilateral triangle - the foundation of tetrahedral geometry, the hallmark of hyperdimensional physics & fluid dynamics - immortalized in a crater in the centre of the Moon...
The Ukert crater, with a perfect 16 mile equilateral triangle within it! This crater is located near the centre of the moon as viewed from Earth. At full moon, the triangle can be made out even with a small telescope. Note also the three brighter areas on the rim of the crater. If they are connected together with straight lines, another equilateral triangle is formed, resulting in two perfectly interlocking triangles! ...
Sticking up from an otherwise, flat, rounded, eroded lunar landscape, the "Shard" as it has been named is one and a half miles tall. Note the shadow to the left of the Shard....
To the left of the shard, a faint anomaly was photographed. After printing the negative over and over again at different exposure levels, and analyzing the results with various computer imaging processes, the anomaly was found to be a massive "tower/cube" hanging more than seven miles above the Moon! ...
I'm sorry, I spent a long time reading this stuff.  It gave rise to all sorts of thoughts and poor jokes about making sure castles in the air are built on firm foundations, and so forth.  The part I loved best was not "the foundation of tetrahedral geometry, the hallmark of hyperdimensional physics & fluid dynamics" -good as that was - it was "If an ancient alien civilization built a city on Mars, Hoagland reasoned, why not on the moon and on Earth itself!"


An Extra Poem of the Week, In the Style of Dr Seuss

Scooping the Loop Snooper: an elementary proof of the undecidability of the halting problem
Geoffrey K. Pullum, University of Edinburgh

No program can say what another will do.
Now, I won’t just assert that, I’ll prove it to you:
I will prove that although you might work til you drop,
you can’t predict whether a program will stop.

Imagine we have a procedure called P
that will snoop in the source code of programs to see
there aren’t infinite loops that go round and around;
and P prints the word “Fine!” if no looping is found.

You feed in your code, and the input it needs,
and then P takes them both and it studies and reads
and computes whether things will all end as they should
(as opposed to going loopy the way that they could).

Well, the truth is that P cannot possibly be,
because if you wrote it and gave it to me,
I could use it to set up a logical bind
that would shatter your reason and scramble your mind.

Here’s the trick I would use – and it’s simple to do.
I’d define a procedure – we’ll name the thing Q -
that would take any program and call P (of course!)
to tell if it looped, by reading the source;

And if so, Q would simply print “Loop!” and then stop;
but if no, Q would go right back to the top,
and start off again, looping endlessly back,
til the universe dies and is frozen and black.

And this program called Q wouldn’t stay on the shelf;
I would run it, and (fiendishly) feed it itself.
What behaviour results when I do this with Q?
When it reads its own source, just what will it do?

If P warns of loops, Q will print “Loop!” and quit;
yet P is supposed to speak truly of it.
So if Q’s going to quit, then P should say, “Fine!” -
which will make Q go back to its very first line!

No matter what P would have done, Q will scoop it:
Q uses P’s output to make P look stupid.
If P gets things right then it lies in its tooth;
and if it speaks falsely, it’s telling the truth!

I’ve created a paradox, neat as can be -
and simply by using your putative P.
When you assumed P you stepped into a snare;
Your assumptions have led you right into my lair.

So, how to escape from this logical mess?
I don’t have to tell you; I’m sure you can guess.
By reductio, there cannot possibly be
a procedure that acts like the mythical P.

You can never discover mechanical means
for predicting the acts of computing machines.
It’s something that cannot be done. So we users
must find our own bugs; our computers are losers!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Poem of the Week

Crossing The Bar
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness or farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Mole Back

So I finally got hold of the Adrian Mole (see earlier, and earlier still), then read it in one sitting.  And I still laughed out loud at the school trip entry (when Adrian's class is taken to the BM). 

And I was pleased to see that he also turned up in last Saturday's prize cryptic in the Guardian.

On Nunhead Reservoir

Poem of the Week

Gabriel Grub's Song
Charles Dickens

Brave lodgings for one, brave lodgings for one,
A few feet of cold earth, when life is done;
A stone at the head, a stone at the feet;
A rich, juicy meal for the worms to eat;
Rank grass overhead, and damp clay around,
Brave lodging for one, these, in holy ground!

Dickens in Nunhead

Today there is a lot happening to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.  So it is only reasonable that the Trees Around Nunhead does its bit, by remembering the great man's love affair with Nelly Ternan, who lived at Windsor Lodge in Linden Grove.

He seemed to have used the name Charles Tringham, (a pseudonym he used elsewhere).

Claire Tomalin, writing about the affair refers to it as then “being still a pleasant, open rural area” and cites a contemporary: “There is not in the immediate neighbourhood of London a more agreeable country then  Peckham Rye, Nunhead and adjacent localities”.

So not that much has changed, then.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Last Night's Snow

Nunhead, along with other parts of the country, I suppose, was inundated last night...