Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Welcome back the the bullies!!!!

September 5, 2011

In a rather insightful piece in today’s edition of The Guardian, Jackie Ashley, reflecting on the implications Gordon Brown’s bully-boy tactics  ,as revealed by Alistair Darling in his memoirs, argues any organization run by an autocrat is bound run into trouble.

 I’d argue that there is a much wider problem, a cultural problem, illustrated by Darling’s implied parallel with the leadership of RBS before the crash. We know, or say we know, how good decision-making works. It should be fact-based, deliberative and tested by real arguments. This means it needs people who have the knowledge to engage and the self-confidence to challenge assumptions. In theory, a cabinet of ministers who are there because they have parliamentary support and have risen through past successes should provide just that – a table full of people with the facts in front of them, able to say “no, prime minster”.

 In theory, just the same should apply to the management of big companies, including banks. Around the boardroom table, independent-minded people with business records of their own, are able to cross-question CEOs and managing directors. New ideas are thrashed out. Mistakes are honestly debated and learned from. If things go too wrong, then the wider electorate can call a halt – the real electorate in politics, and the shareholders in business. It’s a theory of public life most people sign up to…..

 I cannot say that in forty years of working in manufacturing  I much come across the theory that’s put into practice. In fact in recent times, and probably because people, for reasons that I hardly need  spell out, I see they bully-boy tactics prevail more than they ever did.


My voting dilemma????????

May 6, 2010

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, writing in his New York Times blog,  sums up the dilemma facing the more thoughtful voters very well. 

May 4, 2010, 3:27 pm

Why Endorse The Tories?

Yglesias is right,. For sure, Gordon Brown — like the Rubinites* here in America — made the great mistake of buying into the promises of high finance. But is there any doubt that a Tory government would have done the same?

And I understand the sense that Labour has been in office too long. If I were British, I might well consider voting Lib Dem

But in the current crisis, Brown’s policies have been sensible, whereas the Tories wanted to slash spending in the face of recession, which would have been disastrous. And The Economist agrees — then endorses the Tories.

Is The Economist of the belief that there will be no future crises? That this gigantic failure of judgment in the face of a defining moment for economic policy offers no hint about how well the Tories will perform in dealing with other issues?

It’s utterly bizarre.

It’s frighteningly bizarre, I would say.

* see Robert Rubin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

‘Intolerable’ use of identity papers.

March 24, 2010

This Steve Bell cartoon accompanied The Guardian story that the Foreign secretary confirmed Britain has demanded withdrawal of Israeli diplomat following what he called ‘intolerable’ use of identity papers.

Photographer: Copyright ©Steve Bell 2010

Derek Walcott by Clive James.

May 22, 2009

Over the last couple of weeks, the poetry-loving public has been exposed to the a rather ugly campaign in which the favourite for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry, the West Indian poet, Derek Walcott, was forced to drop out of the race because of a vicious whispering campaign against him. Supporters of Walcott’s female opponent, and the person eventually elected to the post, Ruth Padel, are accused of anonymously spreading rumours about a twenty-year-old allegation of sexual harassment. The whispering campaign culminated in the circulation of a dossier accusing Walcott of being a sex pest.

 Click here to listen to Clive James – in a podcast for The Guardian – talk of his admiration of Walcott’s work, and read a poem he wrote in tribute.

Stuff no longer posted to the Pete Atkin Web Forum.

Burns’ night 2009

January 25, 2009

Today, around the world, people gather to celebrate  250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet.

 Practically everyone in the English speaking world knows something of Burns , even if it is only few words of the chorus of Auld Lang Syne.  


 Julie Andrews


However, for the sake of making the familiar unfamiliar, and maybe restoring the song to some of its former glory, I’m including it here in the setting that Burns himself may have intended.


Kev Thompson 


One of my own favourite Burns songs is the hauntingly beautiful Ae Fond Kiss. Down the years I have had the priveleged to listen to some very good versions of this song, two of which, one by my friend, the folk singer  Seán Cannon, and the other by another friend, the jazz singer Christine Tobin, always remain etched in my memory long after I’ve listened to them.


This is how Wikipedia describes the genesis of the song.

At the suggestion of his brother, Robert Burns published his poems in the volume Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect, known as the Kilmarnock volume. First proposals were published in April 1786 before the poems were finally published in Kilmarnock in July 1786 and sold for 3 shillings. Brought out by John Wilson, a local printer in Kilmarnock, it contained much of his best writing, including The Twa Dogs, Address to the Deil, Hallowe’en, The Cotter’s Saturday Night, To a Mouse, and To a Mountain Daisy, many of which had been written at Mossgiel farm. The success of the work was immediate, and soon he was known across the country.


Burns was invited to Edinburgh on 14 December 1786 to oversee the preparation of a revised edition, the first Edinburgh edition, by William Creech, which was finally published on 17 April 1787 (within a week of this event, Burns sold his copyright to Creech for 100 guineas). In Edinburgh, he was received as an equal by the city’s brilliant men of letters and was a guest at aristocratic gatherings, where he bore himself with unaffected dignity. Here he encountered, and made a lasting impression on, the 16-year-old Walter Scott, who described him later with great admiration


His stay in the city resulted in some lifelong friendships, among which were those with Lord Glencairn, and Frances Anna Dunlop (1730-1815), who became his occasional sponsor and with whom he corresponded for the rest of his life. He embarked on a relationship with the separated Agnes ‘Nancy’ McLehose (1758-1841), with whom he exchanged passionate letters under pseudonyms (Burns called himself ‘Sylvander’ and Nancy ‘Clarinda’). When it became clear that Nancy would not be easily seduced into a physical relationship, Burns moved on to Jenny Clow (1766-1792), Nancy’s domestic servant, who bore him a son, Robert Burns Clow in 1788. His relationship with Nancy concluded in 1791 with a final meeting in Edinburgh before she sailed to Jamaica for what transpired to be a short-lived reconciliation with her estranged husband. Before she left, he sent her the manuscript of Ae Fond Kiss as a farewell to her.

Karen Matheson with Paul Brady – Ae Fond Kiss: from Transatlantic Sessions series 2 -1998 – BBC.

Top US universities

August 23, 2008

John Naughton (see blogroll or this link) posted this to his diary. I can’t think of a good reason for not passing it on.


So what’s new?

August 22nd, 2008 [link]

This is the time of year when US News & World Report publishes its list of the ‘top’ US universities. And guess what? Harvard comes out top, followed by Princeton, Yale and MIT & Stanford tying for fourth place. Average annual fees for the top five = $35,636.60. Just thought you’d like to know.

Who’s a sexy boy then?

August 1, 2007

 This comes from Condé Nast Portfolio: 

Self magazine in China recently conducted a poll asking 1,000 Chinese women aged 25 to 35 whom they would want to have a baby with. (Bill) Gates easily trumped Pitt (No. 10 on the list) and even sexy soccer superstar David Beckham (No. 5).

Read more about Mr Gates the sex symbol here.

Don’t tell them; show them.

April 26, 2007

This diary entry was filed under the heading You Don’t Say by Washington based journalist and blogger Graham Meyer:  

From Clive James’s essay “Blood on the Borders,”* about crime fiction, in the April 9 New Yorker:

Camillieri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph, and only rarely do you get that giveaway trade trick by which one character tells another what he already knows, so that you can find out. “You know what he’s like,” says A to B about C, and then proceeds to tell B what C is like, as if B didn’t already know.From Don DeLillo’s* short story “Still-Life,” in the same issue:

“There’s nothing to discuss right now. He needs to stay away from things, including discussions.”


“You know Keith.”

“I’ve always admired that about him. He gives the impression there’s something deeper to him than hiking and skiing, or playing cards. But what?”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 at 4:12 pm and is filed under Readings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

* Blood on the Borders
** Don DeLillo

Succinct and very much to the point, I’d say.

Two poems about Coventry

March 26, 2007

I have been thinking about some of the poems written about my adopted city. One was written by the Irish poet, and onetime director of Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum John Hewitt.



A full year since, I took this eager city,
the tolerance that laced its blatant roar,
its famous steeples and its web of girders,
as image of the state hope argued for,
and scarcely flung a bitter thought behind me
on all that flaws the glory and the grace
which ribbons through the sick, guilt-clotted legend
of my creed-haunted, godforsaken race.
My rhetoric swung round from steel’s high promise
to the precision of the well-gauged tool,
tracing the logic in the vast glass headlands,
the clockwork horse, the comprehensive school.
Then, sudden, by occasion’s chance concerted,
in enclave of my nation, but apart,
the jigging dances and the lilting fiddle
stirred the old rage and pity in my heart.
The faces and the voices blurring round me,
the strong hands long familiar with the spade,
the whiskey-tinctured breath, the pious buttons,
called up a people endlessly betrayed
by our own weakness, by the wrongs we suffered
in that long twilight over bog and glen,
by force, by famine and by glittering fables
which gave us martyrs when we needed men,
by faith which had no charity to offer,
by poisoned memory, and by ready wit,
with poverty corroded into malice,
to hit and run and howl when it is hit.
This is our fate: eight hundred years’ disaster,
crazily tangled as the Book of Kells;
the dream’s distortion and the land’s division,
the midnight raiders and the prison cells.
Yet like Lir’s children, banished to the waters,
our hearts still listen for the landward bells.

The other is by Philp Larkin, who, by the by, was born a few hundred yards away from where I now sit and who grew up in the city. 

I Remember, I Remember 

Coming up England by a different line
For once, early in the cold new year,
We stopped, and, watching men with number plates
Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
'Why, Coventry!' I exclaimed. 'I was born here.'

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
So long, but found I wasn't even clear
Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
Were standing, had we annually departed

For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
No, only where my childhood was unspent,
I wanted to retort, just where I started:

By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
Our garden, first: where I did not invent
Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
And here we have that splendid family

I never ran to when I got depressed,
The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
The bracken where I never trembling sat,

Determined to go through with it; where she
Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.
And, in those offices, my doggerel
Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

Who didn't call and tell my father There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead -
'You look as though you wished the place in Hell,'
My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.

'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'

Sent to Coventry.

March 26, 2007

I was wondering today what the origins of the phrase “sent to Coventry”, meaning to be ostracised, were. These explanations come from a site called

Sent to Coventry

The old saying “sent to Coventry” is a frequently quoted phrase, meaning to be completely ignored or snubbed by everyone, yet few who use it are aware of its origin. As with much historical ‘storytelling’, the true origin is blurred in the mists of time, but here are some possible reasons for its usage: –

By far the most popularly believed reason is the story about the Civil War. Around 1648 Oliver Cromwell sent many Scottish Royalist prisoners (who had been fighting for Charles I) to be imprisoned in St. Johns Church in Fleet Street. While exercising in the streets, it was said that the soldiers were completely ostracised by the strongly parliamentarian Coventry folk, hence; people who have been shunned in that way were said to have been “sent toCoventry“.
It has also been suggested that because Coventry was a place used to carry out executions, for example, the so called ‘heretics’ brought here to be burned in the 16th century, another theory is that to be “sent to Coventry” had far more serious connotations. Certainly those poor souls would never have been spoken to again!

In the light of information from David McGrory, severe doubt can be cast upon both of the above reasons. The story based in the Civil War might be nearer to the mark, but as with the myth of Godiva’s ride, that tale was not related until a century after it had apparently happened. There is reason to believe, however, that the true origin does lie with the soldiers based here in the 17th century. For obvious reasons, it was not popular with the locals for rowdy and possibly ill-disciplined troops to be billeted here, and young girls would probably have been forbidden to mix with the soldiery. Therefore, it is suggested that the soldiers felt their presence here was unwelcome, giving rise to them being “sent to Coventry“.

I wonder whether that is really worth knowing. I suppose after residing for more than forty years in the city that is the very least I should know.