Wednesday, 13 September 2023

Bull in a China Shop


While the notion that a parliamentary researcher may have been spying for China is deeply worrying (Guardian, 9th September), they surely couldn't have done as much damage to the country as the Tory party has over the last 13 years?

Monday, 28 August 2023

Thwarting Evil Wiles

Suella Braverman on BBC R4 just now, defending Home Office policies. Repeatedly discussing the courts "thwarting" Government plans (eg deportation to Rwanda). Later on, the same phrases cited in the Guardian.

She seems tone deaf to the words she uses. Mostly, for us at the Trees, things that are "thwarted" are the plans of evil masterminds or the wiles of the Devil.
As in:
"Crowley looked up slyly.
“'Then you can't be certain, correct me if I'm wrong, you can't be certain that thwarting it isn't part of the divine plan too. I mean, you're supposed to thwart the wiles of the Evil One at every turn, aren't you?'
"Aziraphale hesitated.
“'There is that, yes.'
“'You see a wile, you thwart. Am I right?'
“'Broadly, broadly. Actually I encourage humans to do the actual thwarting. Because of ineffability, you understand.'
“'Right. Right. So all you've got to do is thwart."
(Pratchett & Gaiman, Good Omens).

What I'm unclear about is whether the Home Secretary is genuinely and profoundly tone deaf to the language she uses, or is simply revelling in the way it characterises her as the Evil One. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2023


 My favourite museum in London is actually a very, very small institution, while my favourite museum object sits in a case in one of the largest and busiest.  But my favourite single museum gallery is perhaps a quirky choice.  It’s in the Natural History Museum.  Not the dinosaurs, nor indeed any other of the Life galleries.  Instead, at the other end of the site, in the old Geological museum, now rebadged as the Earth galleries, there is a space that always captures my imagination.

It presents a multi-million year timeline that charts the story of the evolution of life with plate tectonics and the story of the changing earth.  It covers the various mass extinction events, and the changing atmosphere alongside the geological shifts.  A few years ago, it had a refresh, which to my mind dumbed it down a little, but it’s still pretty good.

Perhaps partly because of this, for the last few weeks I’ve been particularly enjoying the new Chris Packham documentary, “Earth” on the BBC.  The episodes don’t flow in chronical order, but mostly work back in time from the Permian mass extinction, covering snowball earth and the early development of the atmosphere along the way, before ending with the arrival and impact of humans.

It’s pretty good, and includes a lot of the newest science and archaeology.  Chris Packham, I think, does well as the presenter (I recognise he may be a little marmite for some). He is passionate, and cares about the stories he’s telling. 

Like all TV documentaries, it has its longueurs; as with most, there is a lot of standing around in beautiful places overseas and pointing.  But there feels, to me, to be more meat in it than in some of the recent Brian Cox shows, or even, dare I say, Attenboroughland.

The visual language of these documentaries was established, I guess, by Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation” in the late 60s, and Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man” a few years later.  The latter is being rebroadcast on BBC4, and is available on iPlayer, so I have had a look.  The visual language is indeed very similar, but it is much, much slower than the films we have today.  And of course some of the arguments are very dated now.

Anyway, I recommend the Packham series.  I think it’s worth the watch,


Thursday, 13 July 2023

Haunted by Bill Murray

In a sense, the last couple of weeks has seen two hauntings by Bill Murray.

First time was obvious - we went to the Tim Minchin musical of Groundhog Day at the Old Vic. The film has been a favourite of mine for a long time, although I can also see its flaws. The musical was actually a pleasant surprise, in that many of those issues were fixed, it was still funny, it contained new surprises, there was an interesting undertone of horror, and the lead, Andy Karl, does a passably unpleasant Phil Connors. However, and of course, I could feel an echo of Bill Murray's original performance. Probably impossible to avoid it.
And then this week to Asteroid City, at the local multiscreen in Peckham. If you like Wes Anderson, this is a very Wes Andersonny film, so you'll probably enjoy it. Lots of fourth wall breaking. Many well known American actors, including Steve Carell as the motel manager. Bill Murray was originally going to play the part, but caught Covid and had to withdraw. Floating around on the Internet there is a short film, made made by Anderson after the main shoot, of Murray playing a different (fictional) actor whose part was cut from the play, but who is doing an advertising intro for the show. Fun and odd, and all very metatextual, of course; and once seen, I had a retrospective feeling that he was perhaps a ghostly presence in the whole film.
These things feel inevitable. So, looking ahead, does anyone know: What echoing link does Murray have with the Dial of Destiny? I need to be prepared...

Wednesday, 5 July 2023

Thursday, 22 June 2023

Tuesday, 20 June 2023

The Pubs Around Nunhead 25: Top 10!

A month or two after publication, but we at thr Trees thought it was worth sharing.

The otherwise perfidious Time Out magazine has published a list of the Top 50 pubs in London.

The #1, two of the top 10, and four of the top 25 are local to Nunhead/Peckham.

The top 10 are:
  1. Skehans, Nunhead

  2. The Southampton Arms, Gospel Oak

  3. The Coach & Horses, Soho

  4. The Duke, Bloomsbury

  5. The Chesham Arms, Hackney

  6. The Tavern on the Hill, Walthamstow 

  7. The Blythe Hill Tavern, Catford 

  8. The Cow, Notting Hill

  9. The Salisbury Hotel, Harringay 

  10. The Ivy House, Nunhead. 

The Prince of Peckham is at #19 and The Gowlett #23.

Other pubs of note are the Mayflower in Rotherhithe (#35), the RVT (#44) and the Camberwell Arms (#46).     

To be fair, we have only visited 8 or so of them.   

Work to do!