Tuesday, 30 June 2009

not just a river in egypt

Report on the BBC website says, 'Four ball boys and girls at the Wimbledon tennis championships have shown symptoms of swine flu.'

But the All England Club's spokesman said these cases hadn't been confirmed as swine flu. He added, that the ball boys and girls 'haven't been tested for swine flu and they're not going to be.' If I were their parents, I'd be fine with that.

Incidentally, for fans of my fashion advice who agree that Federer, Venus, etc., wearing their names all over themselves is vulgar, I also think that the Championships' decision to have big Ralph Lauren logos on the ball boys' and girls' shirts is also a vulgar one. I only mention it because people endlessly say how classy and un-vulgar Wimbledon is, and in general it is un-vulgar.

harder, harder

Describes some things, while others are easier. It seemed to be very easy to get people to make retro KSC football shirts, which I love the idea of, in my childish way. It has turned out not to be so as the details flit back and forth. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, said Cardinal Newman. Well, dur. On the other hands (I have three hands, it's one of my things), if I face ten thousand difficulties in the ordering of these shirts, which I do not doubt that I want, I literally won't bother.

On the first hand, or one of the others, it looked like it would probably be tricky to find the right size of book-launch venue, and availability, especially in Kilburn, given all the various timings and parameters. It took five minutes and an incredibly helpful meeting ten minutes long five minutes away. Good old Good Ship, I say.

Monday, 29 June 2009

massive yachts! i wipe my feet on massive yachts!

This is because, like Roman Abramovich, I have a luxury submarine instead. Like him, I say, 'If you can find it, you can have it.' You can't find it. I guarantee it.

I have always liked the sound of luxury subs. I like the fact that the owners are secretive about them. And that they have bought luxury subs. Paul Allen, the other guy at Microsoft, bought a yellow one for $12m.

US Submarines built a huge groovemeister called the Phoenix 1000. They describe it thus: 'The initial design was originally executed for a client and now awaits a buyer.' This, we can all see, is the tip of an iceberg of a sad story, like Bambi. Sweetly, US Subs go on to say that it is 'arguably, one of the most significant personal transportation devices of the century.' This is only really arguable if you are a total moron or have a massive luxury submarine on your books that you desperately need to get rid of. It costs, probably, $76m. They've gone up since I bought one. OR HAVE THEY?!!?

(As you'd imagine, the Phoenix 1000 has a smaller sub that attaches to it like a pilot fish. I sometimes feel like this.)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

massive yachts

Last week's FT Weekend paper had a special boating edition of its crazy How to Spend It supplement, which is the ideal magazine for the squillionaire in your life.

Among the things that made me happy was that learning that oenophiles are still commissioning state-of-the-art wine cellars for their massive yachts, in spite of all the difficulties involved. The move towards eco-yachts also pleases me, though I suppose it's all relative. But mainly, I now love the idea of George Nicholson, international chairman of the yacht brokerage Camper & Nicholsons.

It turns out that C&N have been going since 1782, since when it has been synonymous with the world's leading yachts. What were these in Georgian era? I now want to know.

Ok. Things started with a guy called Francis Amos, who opened a shipyard near Gosport and soon apprenticed a relative called Camper. The yacht business got going in the 1820s, and the yard's name was first really made by a fast yacht called Breeze, though things went a bit tits-up when we lost the America's Cup and yachting ceased during the Crimean War. Stupid War.

A youngster called Ben Nicholson, some comings and goings, and the firm got its current name in the 1860s. No, my mistake. Camper and Nicholson then, and Nicholsons when Ben's three sons joined later. The golden era was between the wars, as you might imagine. Here are some shipyward staff from 1930.

If you want a massive custom yacht, you should probably know, and C&N certainly tell you, that it is a serious investment and requires long-term commitment.

I'm not finished with yachts.

Friday, 26 June 2009

jacko at wimbledon

John McEnroe and Sue Barker have just spent fifteen minutes discussing Michael Jackson instead of tennis. It wasn't raining.

Among the highlights, apart from the basic, general weirdness, was McEnroe saying, 'I hope it was a dummy or a fake kid,' and then doing a Zoidberg impression: 'A self-proclaimed king of pop he was.'

Thursday, 25 June 2009

cuppy! cuppy!

I will admit that I was a little disappointed when I started reading The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. I will also admit that I was wrong. Here's Cuppy on Charlemagne:
Pippin the short died in 768, leaving his title jointly to Charles and Carloman, a younger son who soon died suddenly, although he had never been sick a day in his life.

By this time Charles was twenty-nine and billed as almost too good for this world, a reputation that has persisted to our own day and is pretty sure to last forever. He was so wonderful as soldier, statesman, moralist, reformer, and what not that it would be awful to suggest that there was anything wrong with Carloman's death. The same goes for the passing of Carloman's two little sons when their mother tried to make trouble. It seemed to run in the family.*
Most historians say that Charlemagne was neither German nor French, but Frankish. He was German.

*The most I will say is that I feel a little uneasy about it. Gibbon did too.

And here he is on some peoples:
The Ostrogoths and the visigoths were so much alike that it was impossible for a layman to tell them apart, and, if you could, what would you do about the Asdings, the Silings, and the Gepids, not to mention the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, and the Lithuanians. Name three important exports of the Gepids. Name one.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


The BBC is dramatising all the Smiley novels. I've only listened to the start of the first one, so far, which contains this description of Maston, the boss Smiley loathes. It is in the voice of Ann Smiley, George's aristocratic and inconstant wife:
That suit! A full inch of creamy cuff on show, and the silver tie, and the grey hair - a barmaid's dream of a gentleman.

I'm also re-listening to the BBC Strong Poison, with Ian Carmichael and Joan Hickson. There are some fantastic bits from that ('I'm told I make love rather nicely' / 'By the way, I don't positively repel you, or anythin' like that?') which I will hunt out.

Monday, 22 June 2009

who are these idiots?

1. I have had it up to here and higher, with the nutjobs who constantly say that Roger Federer is an incredibly stylish dresser. Viz.

I mean, what? Rog is an unbelievably stylish PLAYER OF TENNIS, and all reports say he is a very nice man, but his recent collections of vulgar, vulgar leisurewear/yachtwear/tracksuitwear are not stylish. I repeat, vulgar. They have his initials on them in gold.

2. But my real beef, as stated previously to almost everyone who has ever spoken to me, is with the telly powers who insist on using a camera that means whenever a female tennis player sits down, her first action must be to put a towel over her knees so that we don't see her knickers. Possible solutions to this problem:
A. I do not recommend this to any top female tennis players, but wearing no knickers and then facing the press saying, 'What? I have to expect people to be looking up my skirt? Why is that?' would be the nuclear option, thus I DO recommend that a top tennis player...
B. wears a pair knickers saying, 'FUCK OFF' in the business area, and then has the same press conference. It's a pity Lindsay Davenport is no longer around. She'd have done it brilliantly.

(I know, lots of the women wear absurdly short clothes where their knickers are obvious all the time, but not all of them, and they all have to use the towel, and I don't think it's good enough.)

Saturday, 20 June 2009

a joke about science

Someone must have made the joke about Brownian motion and the veering, reactive policymaking of Gordon Brown, but I haven't seen it.

Friday, 19 June 2009

old stuff (III) - roundup

1. The rules of canasta, written down by my friend Matt.

2. Surprisingly detailed plot for radio play about the dogs of Henry III of France, Catherine de Medici and the Duke of Guise. I vaguely remember it now I see it in front of me, but if you had asked me to list all the things I had thought about writing in my life, I would never have got to this. It was only about three years ago. It was full of dogs discussing inbreeding and mongrelisation. Can't have a proper play without a talking animal. It's one of my main rules.

3. Notes for trashy magazine articles I thought I might write in my secret female persona. I did write a few of these, for eg: 'Why we women should be grateful to lads' mags (for printing sex tips that make men at least a tiny bit less clueless)'.

4. Quotation from the unpublished biography of an early twentieth century South African called Theodore Reunert. I can't remember all that much about Reunert, but my gut memory is that he was a great guy in a civic-leadery kind of way. He described the relief he felt when, as a young man, an old man he barely knew gave him £10 to tide him over a hard time. He asked what he should do about paying this money back, and the old guy replied: 'When you can afford to pay me back, pass it on to the next man who needs it.'

5. Three other sheets of brilliant pieces of writing I read when I was researching my PhD, some of which were very formative. I will return to these at some point, because they deserve more space.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

i am lovestruck

No, wait, I mean I was struck by lovestruck, the column in thelondonpaper today (a column in which I inexplicably and relentlessly don't appear to be the object of tubegoers' anonymous lust). There was an entry which read to me, and I know this makes me a bad person, like a wee but very prettily-constructed joke:
You: man in suit on Northern line, tuesday, 6.18pm at Euston. I was reading the Bible opposite you. Fancy a milkshake?

old stuff (II)

Another old page of the Culture section. Took me a while to remember why I kept it. Then I saw the descriptions of the bestsellers. At number seven in the hardback fiction charts was Maeve Binchy's Whitethorn Woods. The description of this book runs:
The inhabitants of an Irish town have divided opinions over a new bypass.

Be still my beating heart.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

old stuff

I cleared a shelf earlier today. I found one of my favourite old play reviews. It's from the Culture section of the Sunday Times. I can't find the date. The play in question is A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it was being done at Stratford. The review opens: 'This is one of the two or three truly great productions of this great play I have ever seen.'

So far, no problemo. But the review then awards it four stars out of five. How high are this guy's standards? Presumably he never gives five stars. Au contraire, because on the same page he gives five stars to Mammals at the Bush Theatre. The author of Mammals, Amelia Bullmore, is jolly good, and I'm sure the cast, etc., but a star more than a 'truly great' production of a 'great' play. Maybe that word doesn't mean what I think it means.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

inspiring photo essay

So, on Thursday I went to see my book being made into a book. Paul and Anne at CPI Mackay say this doesn't happen all that often, which seems crazy, because it's really fun. They named a few people who did it who I hadn't heard of, then Philip Pullman and then a guy off The Apprentice who came with dolly birds and a limo. I came in a train with my friend Steve, who took the pictures and used to work in magazine publishing, so he could ask good questions about paper finish.

Speaking of paper, here is some. It is integral to the printing process like you wouldn't believe.

This is the next thing:

There are two rolls on this machine. The full one has a blue strip of glue on the top, and when the empty one is nearly empty, the machine bashes it onto the strip of glue, some gears engage, and the full roll takes the role of the empty roll, viz. supplying paper to the the printing machine. Further down the line, some computer knows where the glue bits of paper are in the system, and about 45 seconds later, eighty yards away, a flange in the line separates off the twenty sheets around the glue and they go in the bin for recycling.

Once the paper is engaged, it goes through a load of ups and downs which are all about it being aligned, so the printing will happen in the middle of the page. The first time you look at all this up-ing and down-ing, you might think that surely the process could be simplified, which only goes to show how much you know. Here are some ups and downs:

And now we come to the business section. The all new Zero Make-Ready printing machine. It looks like this:

What it does, is print stuff on paper. I could do that with a potato, you are probably thinking, but it's not the same. Paper whizzes into the machine, and inked plates put words on it with unbelievable rapidity and neatness, and then, when they have done enough pages, there's a little alarm and the plates disengage, the paper keeps running and another set of plates engage and the computer (again) discards about twenty pages of waste paper. Among the many amazing things is looking at the plates. How ink could stick to some of the bits of it and not the rest is crazy. You can't see much in the way of indentation. And Andy the technical supremo then talks about how it keeps getting blasts of water on it to keep it clean, and yet the ink stays on the right parts, at which point you accept the whole thing is more or less sorcery and go to the other end and watch the pages emerging, looking not unlike this:

(This is what the plates look like, by the way. They are made of aluminium, which a friend of mine who is an expert in aluminium says is 'the wonder metal':


What you are thinking now is: those sheets of paper all look pretty big. I am sure there will be some kind of cutting involved at some point, and the reason they do it like this is that it is simply more efficient to print bigger on bigger rolls of paper. You are right. What you might not realise is that the pages are printed in a weird way called head-to-toe or some such. This means that, before printing, each unit (or 'signature', as we call it in printing) contains two different sections of the book going in the opposite directions from each other (thus pages 1-32 on the bottom half, and 320-288 on the top half). You will see this illustrated more clearly later on.

(This really is a wonderful photo essay.)

All these signatures get collected together in long piles in a machine I think I don't have a picture of (this is a hopeless photo essay) and then all these piles hang around for a while until it is time for them to be bound. Then they are all put into their respective lines on the binder machine (with 1-32 + 320-288 on one end, 288-320 + 32-1 on the other end, and rising and falling numbers in between, including, if necessary sheets of plates. Also, the covers, which in my case were printed in beautiful Croydon).

Oh, here are some pictures of sheets of long, top-and-toe sheets:

All along this blue thing, signatures are being fed onto a conveyer, aligned and, ultimately, glued together.

The glue is kept in a big tub of little sticky balls (they get stickier when heated up). Here we are feeling the glueballs. However good a picture is, it is hard for a picture to paint the thousand words that will explain what glueballs feel like. You don't need a thousand words. They feel sticky. They look like what Tom Wolfe first called (I think) styrofoam peanuts.

Once the books are bound and glued, they are still double-length. Here they are going along a conveyor belt.

Here is a machine looking like it's full of, basically, little bits of paper. I am assuming that it is something to do with the cutting process.

After which you get a book going along another belt. Because photojournalist Stephen should get a prize, I will include one picture of a book emerging from the cutter, finished, and an artistic one of movement. Stephen, who is actually a top international playwright, had about ten cracks at getting a book in the moment of emergency, or emergement, or whatever it is. Then, like wildlife photographer seeing a whale:

After this, other machines pack the books into piles:

And then bigger piles, and then shrink-wrap them:

And then they go to the palletiser (can you guess what it does). I do not know why these books have not been shrink-wrapped:

At this point in the process, I am always photographed with my book.

You have endured a lot to get to this point, and I am very grateful. I am really excited by my book. I have endured nothing to get here except doing exactly what I want all the time. I hope you endure my book at some point. Here endeth the photo-essay.

department of not good enough

London Lite and thelondonpaper: unbearable, I think we can agree. Everyone I know, including me, prefers the latter. Partly it is because the font is less vulgar; partly because it is, on average, a fraction less rabble-rousy; partly because, when it began, it was genuinely a scintilla more ambitious; partly because it has the em cartoon which is great to a degree that I have gone on about before.

But yesterday, in the sports section, was 'the lowdown', a collection of things you should do this week. One of the things was, and I quote in toto:
Play Twenty20 Cricket
adidas Twenty2 Yards All Round III cricket shoe
A splendid addition to the growing adidas cricket range, these cricket shoes combine all the latest technology with contemporary styling to produce a stunning range of performance footwear to meet the demands of the modern game (it says here!).

It's one thing to get information from a press release, but this is literally a newspaper quoting a press release as a recommendation. The 'it says here!' line is not enough. We need to know whether it is true. Or at least plausible. Or something. Like, what if it was, 'this is the best restaurant you'll ever eat in (says the chef!)' and that was it? Or, no, I'll stop, it's hammers to kill gnats, but really.

(If you are a chef who wants thelondonpaper to say your restaurant is the best anyone will ever eat in, then the bottom of the section suggests you email James Gill. He's just some underpaid, overworked guy, I have no doubt, and it's mostly the system not the individuals, but it's really, really crap.)

Monday, 15 June 2009

the world's most beautiful person

Yes, yes, I fooled you. This is actually a post about transliteration. The front of the Financial Times today is about the Iranian elections, as won by some guy called Ahmadi-Nejad. I mean, what? Surely we've settled on a convention. But no, The F/T has to be better than everyone else.

(Note: it's raining really hard and I should be going out into it in a few minutes. I'm talking wet, wet rain.)

There's a Pakistani fast bowler whose been called, for years, Umar Gul. It's on all the screens when he comes out to play. The commentators call him UmARR Gul, some of them as if they're doing a pirate impression. On the back of his shirt, however, is the word 'UMER'.

(Lightning too. I dare say many of you are experiencing something similar. I love rain.)

In a different spelling issue, the incompetents who make the England cricket kit have sent them out with such dodgy lettering that the two batsmen currently at the crease are representing 'E LAND' and ' LAND' respectively.

good joke

I can't remember which series of Milton Jones this was on, but I heard it again the other day: someone, who we will call A, is showing Milton some old holiday snaps. The conversation goes inexactly like this...

Milton: Oh, when was this! I didn't realise you knew REM!
A: Yes, that's me in the corner.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


'How often am I in a proper rage?' is a question you are always asking people about me, I suppose. I will tell you: more often than you think. If you are late, for instance.

But lateness is nothing to earliness, when the earliness in question is the last train on the London Overground. I caught it, but it left Gospel Oak tonight at 11.26 instead of 11.29. I am, all these minutes later, still black with fury. You may wonder what good it is doing anyone.

Friday, 12 June 2009

are you happy?

If no, then here is the solution; if yes, then here is something that will make you realise that you only thought you were happy: finally I have got round to buying Will Cuppy's The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, and now I will start quoting it to you at regular intervals. Viz.

In modern times much thought has been devoted to the methods used in constructing the Great Pyramid. Egyptologists marvel that such a task could have been accomplished before they were born, and our engineers say they would not have undertaken it with only some old copper tools and a complete lack of stainless steel machinery. It hardly seems possible that the ancient Egyptians were as smart as these experts. Still, they went right ahead and did it, and you can draw your own conclusions.

The fact is that building a pyramid is fairly easy, aside from the lifting. You just pile up stones in receding layers, placing one carefully upon another, and pretty soon you have a pyramid. You can't help it.*

*You can get a stone facsimile of the Great Pyramid made to order for $156m [1950 prices]. It is cheaper to do it yourself--then you know it's done right.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

today i saw my book being printed

This is actually not true. It had been printed a few days ago on the amazing Timsons ZMR ('Zero Make Ready' - a term which is a a bit misleading, and makes publishers think there will be no waste paper which is unrealistic) at CPI Mackay in Chatham. The ZMR can switch to printing different pages while the paper is rolling, and a wide variety of other things. I understood many of them for a brief while while the incredibly helpful Paul, Andy and Anne at Mackays showed me and a friend around.

What we did see was KSC being collated and bound. This was another new machine, and 3000 copies were dealt with in twenty minutes. I will be posting a photo essay soon, but today you can be satisfied with this.

I was pretty excited.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

i'm smiling because my dentist numbs me up with the magic wand (TM)

This is the unsettling strapline I saw on the front of a leaflet in my new dentist's yesterday (great dentist, by the way - I haven't heard anyone say 'brilliant' and 'perfect' more often since the last time I had sex)*. Quite apart from it being an advert for 'The magic Wand (TM)' (sic), which I bet is a mistake, and the fact that I don't think 'up' is a happy or necessary addition to 'numb', it was under the picture of a pretty small girl in a flowery dress.

I am not pc gone mad, but I think someone involved could have Done Better.

*Yes, yes, I was alone.

how many other people are thinking

'If my Oyster pre-pay is working today on all these trains, why can't it always work on all these trains? Why do I have to buy a travelcard twice a week, and remember to take my Oyster card out of my wallet so I don't instinctively touch in or out? Whose heads do I get to bang together?'

I know that this is not an original or scintillating observation. If you want something scintillating about Oyster cards, go here.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

i am a top spider expert

says my friend Sara, all the time. None of us believe her, because if you know one thing about her it is that she is a top expert on snails. But she has somehow convinced the BBC.

(If you are my friend, you will never feature on this blog unless you are already colluding in a BBC news story about being an expert.)

instantaneous and frantic love (i was drunk)

December 31, 1919
I felt wakeful [after dinner] so went to the Albert Hall where there was a fancy dress ball. I managed to get in without a ticket by a subterfuge and with the help of Godfrey Wentworth whom I met at the door. He took me up to the Duke of Manchester's box where were all the lesser lights of the stage and a great quantity of champagne. Just as I was going I met Iris who introduced me to Cathleen Nesbitt.* The latter I immediately drove home, making instantaneous and frantic love to her the while. I found her charming and so she found me. I told her how much I had loved her as Jessica, Perdita and the Duchess of Malfi. I expressed a wish to kiss her feet having admired them when bare in the part of Perdita. She obligingly removed her stocking. We talked a lot of poetry, said we would arrange no further meeting lest we should spoil the romance, we would leave it to the fates. It was half past five when I got to bed and I was drunk.

Took The Duff Cooper Diaries to the loo. This was the page I flicked to. It was not a wildly brilliant plum. This is what the book is like. And you still haven't bought it. I have literally no patience with people like you.

* A famous beauty, who had been engaged to Rupert Brooke

Sunday, 7 June 2009

the death of marat safin

This is the very hilarious and witty name of my French Open team at Tennis For Free's fantasy grand slam site. I've done solidly enough, though I will lose my mini-league by about four points.

The interesting thing I got interested in twenty minutes ago was this: Robin Soderling, in spite of obviously being a good player, is a surprise finalist. Who, I wondered, had been sharp enough to spot his potential and how far had such astute characters benefited? I started clicking through teams. It soon became obvious that the main qualification for knowing enough about tennis that you might pick a good fantasy team was realising that you shouldn't pick Robin Soderling. I clicked on, and the further, and then on. It became apparent that basically only a moron or someone at random might pick him. I clicked further, well into the second half of the overall table and the dark end of the carpal tunnel stress spectrum. Finally I hit on Lisa's Legends, languishing in the 200s, though due for a boost tomorrow, because she also has Roger Federer. I looked at the rest of her team. It seemed ok. Maybe there is luck in fantasy tennis. Except all those non-soderlings higher up surely cannot lie.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

listen to obama

Every time I hear the phrase 'Obama said' my brain follows it up with 'you can't hurry love.' This happens to me most days.

Friday, 5 June 2009

stupid bbc; funny bbc

1. A headline reads, 'Jenson Button aims to kickstart his bid to win a sixth Grand Prix of the season in Friday practice of the Turkish Grand Prix'. I know that Formula 1 is involved in a cost-cutting exercise, but I would be very surprised if this were true.

2. Andrew Symonds might have won the T20 world cup for Australia on his own if he weren't such a loose cannon that he's been sent home for breaking tour rules about alcohol. BBC stories (I am saying this in case you are an alien and this is the first website you have ever read) have a 'SEE ALSO' set of links on the right to older stories that might be relevant to the one you're reading. The SEE ALSO list for the Andrew Symonds story is:

Symonds misses out on Ashes squad
20 May 09 | Australia
Symonds given Australia contract
14 May 09 | Australia
Symonds picked for World Twenty20
05 May 09 | Australia
Flintoff 'ashamed' by Cup antics
19 Mar 07 | England
Symonds fined over radio remarks
29 Jan 09 | Australia
Symonds returns to Australia fold
10 Nov 08 | Australia
Symonds regrets drinking session
26 Nov 08 | Australia
Symonds vows to improve behaviour
16 Sep 08 | Australia
Symonds left to rue fishing trip
30 Aug 08 | Australia
Symonds counts cost of late night

Thursday, 4 June 2009

drink and electoral reform

This is going to be a very interesting and revealing post about politics and personal matters, which I never normally do. You must be incredibly excited at the thought of it.

What I thought earlier was this: politics is going through a massive spasm (you may not have noticed); the reasons are various; the expenses kerfuffle is the pretext; Everyone has no idea what to do and so He is is gyrating wildly in the storm of public opinion that some morons think should be a court so we can stone people for obeying laws we happen not to like; and also as He gyrates He is advocating the reform of everything to do with politics in every way, including but not limited to proportional representation, an elected upper chamber and copper bracelets for rheumatism. These huge changes are not ones that politicians have got round to making when they were, for want of a better expression, in control or, to use a jargon expression common amongst people I know, 'sober'. But now they are out of control, or in jargon 'drunk', they are considering massive, life-changing moves with unforeseeable long-term consequences.

I don't know if it is connected but almost none of my friends would be married if they hadn't made massive life-changing moves when they were drunk, and most of my friends are married.

NOTE: I recommend Pure Ubu.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

news is bad news and other matters arising

1. My new cashless Barclays Connect card does, indeed, disable my Oyster Card.

2. Sherlock Holmes. I like the stories while finding them, basically, a bit crap. A thing I have been noticing listening to the very faithful 1960s radio ones on BBC7 at the moment is the way that Holmes, ridiculously for someone who is supposed to be a reasoning machine, CONSTANTLY uses the superlative. Things are endlessly the 'limit' and the 'most extraordinary' and the 'most puzzling' and etc. (Fact about me maybe I should have mentioned: I am irritated by overuse of the superlative.)

3. The tennis from Paris is, according to Eurosport, 'sponsored by Romania'.

4. A thing I don't think I have mentioned but might have is the joyful use by not-very-good journalists and others of compound words (longer and therefore posher) which mean different things to the word within the compound word that they actually mean. My favourite so far was a reporter who the BBC went back to several times during a day and who kept talking about 'the mood-music' at a party conference. 'The mood-music was pretty negative earlier, Brian, but it's getting more upbeat,' and so on. There was a good one yesterday about, I am almost certain, Dinara Safina's tennis from, I am almost certain, John Lloyd. He said, 'She is showing great self-determination.'

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

renaissance dutchman

I'm reading, on and off, David Kynaston's W.G's Birthday Party, which is so far one of the most fun sports books I have read. I loved, as we all do, the pen-portraits of golden age players.

Viz. 1: 'Teddy' Wynyard, who won his DSO in Burma, won the FA Cup with the Old Carthusians in 1881, was prominent in rugger, hockey and figure skating, won the European tobogganing championships in 1894 and a Humane Society medal for rescuing a Swiss peasant from under the ice on the lake at Davos. He was 'by nature an autocrat' and 'A good friend but an awesome enemy.'

Viz. 2: 'Sammy' Woods, son of a Sydney merchant, huge and bold, etc. 'The Father of Mordern Wing Forward Play' as a rugby star, he was a ferocious fast bowler and fearsome hitter. He had a crack at banking and land surveying, but he wasn't up to it, really. Then he went to Cambridge where he had 'four of the jolliest years I have had in my life', though this discounts the agony of his exams. As Kynaston writes: 'It was said that all he could write on his papers was "SMJ Woods. Jesus", with even that having a spelling mistake.' The year he was Cambridge Captain, he breakfasted on seven hot lobsters and some fine ale before going out and taking ten wickets in an innings. He later said, 'There is one thing I have steadily tried to do: to drink more beer for the years I have lived than any other man who has ever come down from Cambridge.'

These characters have gone the way of all flesh with the advent of professionalism, you probably think. Well, think again, because how much fun is Dirk Nannes, an Australian Dutchman? I'll tell you.

He's 33, I'm pretty sure. He's an ex-international skier, speaks Japanese and studied the saxophone at University. He runs a ski-travel company. He never really concentrated on cricket until his late twenties, at which point he became a serious weapon, especially in the shorter version of the game, and he's made a fortune in the IPL playing for Delhi. Virender Sehwag, who's played against everyone, says he's the fastest bowler he's ever faced. There was surprise when he wasn't picked for Australia in the Twenty20. After the omission, he has thrown in his lot with the Dutch.

Monday, 1 June 2009

reviews of my work

Basically, and who knows what will happen really, I think my policy about reviews will be not to comment on them in any substantive way because I can't see how that wouldn't be either slyly self-congratulatory or shrill. This comment on a review is the former: I was talking to a friend the other evening and he said, 'Look, don't take this the wrong way, really, I mean it, but, no really, don't take it the wrong way - I've only read the first bit of the book - but it's surprisingly sensitive.'