Monday, 31 December 2012

Mad Word

Earlier this year, I mentioned the Guardian's series of Top 10 mentions of Cryptic Crosswords in fiction, plays, music, etc. 

I've just checked back to see who eventually won, and I'm pleased (and surprised) to see Madness in 6th place for Cardiac Arrest!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Poem of the Week

Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed
John Donne

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir’d with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and shew
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be
Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.

Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.

To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man?

Saturday, 29 December 2012


Last month I visited the Shell Grotto in Margate. This was also the solution to the conundrum last month, which showed the skylight to the open air from one of the middle chambers.
A small network of caves a few metres underground, encrusted with many millions of shells arranged in mosaic patterns and swirls.

The caves were discovered in the 1830s, but are clearly older - but just how much older is open to some debate.  Discussions of their history have included claims for the Knights Templar and the Phoenecians!

Whatever the origin, the grotto has some strange signs and patterns, and is worth a visit.  It has also featured recently in George Clarke's Amazing Spaces - have a look on 4OD.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Toxic Tories

The press has been full, today, of the Cabinet Papers released under the 30-year rule and what they show about the war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

However, a Cabinet paper has also been released which highlights the Tories long-term plans to dismantle the Welfare State.  The Guardian reports:-
The proposals considered by her cabinet included compulsory charges for schooling and a massive scaling back of other public services. "This would of course mean the end of the National Health Service," declared a confidential cabinet memorandum by the Central Policy Review Staff in September 1982.
This all sounds eerily familiar.  It is what the Labour party always claimed the Tory plan was, and what they always denied in public.  As one of the comments on the Guardian site says today (I take this somewhat out of context). They can sell, destroy but build nothing. Contemptible run of vandals.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


So God has recalled Gerry Anderson to his side.  And soon, now, the Seraphim and Cherubim will have their lives made much easier by great, brightly-coloured machines that can gird the Cosmos much faster than mere Angel's wings.  The pearly gates will be re-engineered to lay flat at need, to allow the Hosts to issue forth much more speedily.  And the music of the spheres will become a rumbunctious march...

Ready with the countdown?

It will all be very exciting.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Poem of the Week

Juggling Jerry
George Meredith

Pitch here the tent, while the old horse grazes:
By the old hedge-side we'll halt a stage.
It's nigh my last above the daisies:
My next leaf'll be man's blank page.
Yes, my old girl! and it's no use crying:
Juggler, constable, king, must bow.
One that outjuggles all's been spying
Long to have me, and he has me now.

We've travelled times to this old common:
Often we've hung our pots in the gorse.
We've had a stirring life, old woman!
You, and I, and the old grey horse.
Races, and fairs, and royal occasions,
Found us coming to their call:
Now they'll miss us at our stations:
There's a Juggler outjuggles all!

Up goes the lark, as if all were jolly!
Over the duck-pond the willow shakes.
Easy to think that grieving's folly,
When the hand's firm as driven stakes!
Ay, when we're strong, and braced, and manful,
Life's a sweet fiddle: but we're a batch
Born to become the Great Juggler's han'ful:
Balls he shies up, and is safe to catch.

Here's where the lads of the village cricket:
I was a lad not wide from here:
Couldn't I whip off the bale from the wicket?
Like an old world those days appear!
Donkey, sheep, geese, and thatch'd ale-house—I know them!
They are old friends of my halts, and seem,
Somehow, as if kind thanks I owe them:
Juggling don't hinder the heart's esteem.

Juggling's no sin, for we must have victual:
Nature allows us to bait for the fool.
Holding one's own makes us juggle no little;
But, to increase it, hard juggling's the rule.
You that are sneering at my profession,
Haven't you juggled a vast amount?
There's the Prime Minister, in one Session,
Juggles more games than my sins'll count.

I've murdered insects with mock thunder:
Conscience, for that, in men don't quail.
I've made bread from the bump of wonder:
That's my business, and there's my tale.
Fashion and rank all praised the professor:
Ay! and I've had my smile from the Queen:
Bravo, Jerry! she meant: God bless her!
Ain't this a sermon on that scene?

I've studied men from my topsy-turvy
Close, and, I reckon, rather true.
Some are fine fellows: some, right scurvy:
Most, a dash between the two.
But it's a woman, old girl, that makes me
Think more kindly of the race:
And it's a woman, old girl, that shakes me
When the Great Juggler I must face.

We two were married, due and legal:
Honest we've lived since we've been one.
Lord! I could then jump like an eagle:
You danced bright as a bit o' the sun.
Birds in a May-bush we were! right merry!
All night we kiss'd, we juggled all day.
Joy was the heart of Juggling Jerry!
Now from his old girl he's juggled away.

It's past parsons to console us:
No, nor no doctor fetch for me:
I can die without my bolus;
Two of a trade, lass, never agree!
Parson and Doctor!—don't they love rarely
Fighting the devil in other men's fields!
Stand up yourself and match him fairly:
Then see how the rascal yields!

I, lass, have lived no gipsy, flaunting
Finery while his poor helpmate grubs:
Coin I've stored, and you won't be wanting:
You shan't beg from the troughs and tubs.
Nobly you've stuck to me, though in his kitchen
Many a Marquis would hail you Cook!
Palaces you could have ruled and grown rich in,
But your old Jerry you never forsook.

Hand up the chirper! ripe ale winks in it;
Let's have comfort and be at peace.
Once a stout draught made me light as a linnet.
Cheer up! the Lord must have his lease.
May be—for none see in that black hollow—
It's just a place where we're held in pawn,
And, when the Great Juggler makes as to swallow,
It's just the sword-trick—I ain't quite gone!

Yonder came smells of the gorse, so nutty,
Gold-like and warm: it's the prime of May.
Better than mortar, brick and putty
Is God's house on a blowing day.
Lean me more up the mound; now I feel it:
All the old heath-smells! Ain't it strange?
There's the world laughing, as if to conceal it,
But He's by us, juggling the change.

I mind it well, by the sea-beach lying,
Once—it's long gone—when two gulls we beheld,
Which, as the moon got up, were flying
Down a big wave that sparked and swell'd.
Crack, went a gun: one fell: the second
Wheeled round him twice, and was off for new luck:
There in the dark her white wing beckon'd:—
Drop me a kiss—I'm the bird dead-struck!

Siteswap BBC 2

... and then we listened to the actual broadcast of More or Less on BBC Radio 4 which discussed juggling notation


Friday, 21 December 2012

Siteswap on the Beeb

Eldest has just posted me this link about Siteswap from the BBC, from a day or so ago. 

Pretty good huh?

It finally helps me understand the notation - which as I said many years ago, I never really got.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Poem of the Week

Advertisement For The Waldorf-Astoria
Langston Hughes

Fine living . . . a la carte?
Come to the Waldorf-Astoria!

Look! See what Vanity Fair says about the
new Waldorf-Astoria:

"All the luxuries of private home. . . ."
Now, won't that be charming when the last flop-house
has turned you down this winter?
"It is far beyond anything hitherto attempted in the hotel
world. . . ." It cost twenty-eight million dollars. The fa-
mous Oscar Tschirky is in charge of banqueting.
Alexandre Gastaud is chef. It will be a distinguished
background for society.
So when you've no place else to go, homeless and hungry
ones, choose the Waldorf as a background for your rags--
(Or do you still consider the subway after midnight good

Take a room at the new Waldorf, you down-and-outers--
sleepers in charity's flop-houses where God pulls a
long face, and you have to pray to get a bed.
They serve swell board at the Waldorf-Astoria. Look at the menu, will


Have luncheon there this afternoon, all you jobless.
Why not?
Dine with some of the men and women who got rich off of
your labor, who clip coupons with clean white fingers
because your hands dug coal, drilled stone, sewed gar-
ments, poured steel to let other people draw dividends
and live easy.
(Or haven't you had enough yet of the soup-lines and the bit-
ter bread of charity?)
Walk through Peacock Alley tonight before dinner, and get
warm, anyway. You've got nothing else to do.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


Those Old People from Collingwood
I will have got some of these wrong, and I don't have them all.

But - for what its worth - and in no specific order...

Nigel Martin
Robin Tye
Gill Gosling (nee Baron)
Ric Toyne
Andy Olive
Duncan James
Dave Green
Michaela Errington
Pete Elleray
Pam Lowther
Andy Crook
Ann Pilling
Cath Porter
Tim Morton
Mark Wren
Dick Hutton
Peter Dixon
Ian Littleton
John Ager
Andrew Peters
Pete johnson
John Guy
Dave Blackwood
Graham Moore
Flic Hearn (nee Carsten)
Anne Chua
Alaric Pugh
Peter Bailey
Neil Frowe

Frozen Wiltshire

Yesterday, on the train back from Bath...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sir Patrick Moore dies

Sad. Patrick Moore died today, aged 89.

I remember seeing the 700th edition of The Sky at Night last year.  And I remember many from the early 70s too, when I first got interested in astronomy.  I read his science fiction as well as his books about space and astronomy.  Locally (for me at the time), he helped to found the Astronomical Society of Haringey  -which is still going.

He will be much missed.

Poem of the Week

After Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics
W. H. Auden

If all a top physicist knows
About the Truth be true,
Then, for all the so-and-so's,
Futility and grime,
Our common world contains,
We have a better time
Than the Greater Nebulae do,
Or the atoms in our brains.

Marriage is rarely bliss
But, surely it would be worse
As particles to pelt
At thousands of miles per sec
About a universe
Wherein a lover's kiss
Would either not be felt
Or break the loved one's neck.

Though the face at which I stare
While shaving it be cruel
For, year after year, it repels
An ageing suitor, it has,
Thank God, sufficient mass
To be altogether there,
Not an indeterminate gruel
Which is partly somewhere else.

Our eyes prefer to suppose
That a habitable place
Has a geocentric view,
That architects enclose
A quiet Euclidian space:
Exploded myths - but who
Could feel at home astraddle
An ever expanding saddle?

This passion of our kind
For the process of finding out
Is a fact one can hardly doubt,
But I would rejoice in it more
If I knew more clearly what
We wanted the knowledge for,
Felt certain still that the mind
Is free to know or not.

It has chosen once, it seems,
And whether our concern
For magnitude's extremes
Really become a creature
Who comes in a median size,
Or politicizing Nature
Be altogether wise,
Is something we shall learn.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

On Penguin Beach

I think I forgot to post about what we did after the Olympic Archery. Following a morning of arrows, we wondered at first what we might do in London near Lords.

And then it seemed obvious; we went to London Zoo in Regent's Park.

The Zoo is much smaller than Berlin Zoo, and I hadn't been there for years.  There have been a lot of changes and work is still continuing - but I must admit I was impressed.
An area near the old Mappin Terraces is being redeveloped and I suspect the chap above was in temporary accommodation, but he didn't seem to mind!
This dragon later had a bit part in Skyfall, I understand. 

It was something of a whistlestop tour...
... but I did stop and stand and stare for many minutes at these two aardvarks (shot without flash through thick glass).
And then, as you do, we went looking for the penguins.  But the iconic pool was empty.
So where were they - had they been shipped off to Whipsnade to join the elephants and many of the big cats?

No, they had a new and super home - Penguin Beach.
It is a huge new open air space, much bigger than the old pool (which all of a sudden seemed astonishingly cramped and brutal).  There are several viewing points, including a glass wall (rather like the hippo wall in Berlin, only cleaner), through which and over which the birds could be seen in astonishing closeup.  The water laps up to the edge, and the penguins swim over to say hello...
For a little extra, children (and adults) can go onto the beach and feed individual penguins by hand.
Or you can just stand and watch them swim, swim by.
A real improvement to the Zoo, and worth the admission price on its own.

I got so excited about Penguin Beach that I thought I would post something about it straight away.  But as I said at the start, I forgot (blame the Olympics). 

And it is now nearly Christmas, so I guess I'd better finish with a more seasonal beast.

Thursday, 6 December 2012