Friday, August 29, 2008

Uncle Kevin's Film Festival: preface and apology

That gentleman and scholar Gadjo Dilo has nominated me to present a list of 12 films. Before I do anything else I should suggest that you have a look at his list and then follow the meme back via No Good Boyo et al. Even if you don't agree with their choices it's an interesting mix.

I'll begin with the apology: I won't be posting the festival till mid-next week due to pressures of gadding about.

I'll also not be presenting my favourite 12 movies. The underlying theme I want to play with precludes my choosing favourites like "King Kong" (the real one, with Fay Wray), "Casablanca" or "The Maltese Falcon." There's no place for "The Third Man" or "Citizen Kane" (they'd fit but not as well, I think). No Tex Avery cartoons, nor yet the Tom and Jerry cartoon with the seal (freeze-frame Tom's reaction to the dancing fish and tell me that's not genius). And probably no Laurel & Hardy, or at least definitely not my favourites.

So what will there be?

I'll let you know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

If you want to get ahead...

It's a strange thing, but if I go out wearing a hat people stand in the street and stare. I don't wear anything outlandish, they're purely functional items to protect my pate from the elements. I may wear the black fedora, or the brown trilby, or the Panama hat. I have never once worn the Austrian Peculiar Coneheaded Dancers' hat out of doors (or indoors in this house, come to that). It's pouring down, I put on a coat and hat, walk down the road and the young people comment. I wouldn't mind but they all walk around dressed like extras from Mad Max or Pirates of the Caribbean.

"Hey mister! That's a funny hat!"

Shouted one specimen with his crotch round his ankles and a baseball cap on sideways. His mate, sporting two limp strands of hairy spagetthi hanging from his three-quarter crop shorts, laughed appreciatively.

It's good that three-quarters of my Poll Tax goes towards educating these idiots.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Quintessence of Parochialism

There was a lot of sound and fury the other day about a report from one of the million or so fuckwit think-tanks that pass for constructive activity in London these days. I can't say I'm surprised: not a day goes by without some half-chewed drivel from "an influential think-tank" filling the spaces in the Westminster Village Parish News. This one just reinforces my long-held opinion that there's nothing so very, very parochial as your Professional Londoner. Even Parisians are more cosmopolitan.

I did get annoyed by the Today Programme's Olympics coverage the day after the opening ceremony. At half-eight the sports bulletin came on as usual. After a couple of minute's raving about the ceremony and a cursory discussion of the day to come the rest of the bulletin was devoted entirely to Tessa Jowell blathering on about how good the London Olympics are going to be. Now, regardless of your views of this metropolitan hand job*, I can't see that this was a good use of the time. It was Friday, we'd had an exciting first day of the final cricket test against South Africa; the championship football season was starting the next day, with the Charity Shield being played on Sunday; and the rugby league was building to an interesting weekend. If the Olympics couldn't fill this slot then any one of the others could have done, far better than the blatherings of "The Minister For The Olympics" (note for foreign readers: we don't have a Minister For The Care of Elderly People).

When Birmingham and Manchester submitted their bids for Olympic glory in the nineties you couldn't move for patronising drivel from the London press. Or, indeed, from the Westminster Village. "The Olympics can only be held in a capital city," they said. Like Sydney. Or Barcelona. Or Munich. Or Atlanta.

Similarly, when it was proposed that the new national football stadium should be outside London. I remember with hilarity one particular moment: the new football stadium was being discussed in The House of Commons and London MPs were decrying the proposal that the stadium should be built just outside Birmingham. The proposed site would have been next to Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre, both of which are excellently served by train services and motorways and have a selection of hotels on site. Glenda Jackson stood up and said that this would be a ridiculous idea because

"Wembley is so much more easily accessible."

Most Englishmen would surely agree. Not.

I was once at a conference in Cambridge, attended by people from all over Britain and Ireland (from Plymouth to Aberdeen, from Cork to Lowestoft), with guests from the States, Germany, Sweden and Australia. At the end of the conference, feedback forms were given out. Nearly all the delegates from London wrote:

"Too far to travel, could next year's venue be more central?"

*The project, not the politician.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Warm summer days

Were it not for the muggy nights I'd be easily convinced that I'd overslept and it was mid-October. The garden's been looking like late summer for more than a month and the crocosmias and verbenas are looking tired.

This is actually an over-simplification: round our way the garden plants have been as confused as hell all year. I've had sweet williams flowering since January; July was the one month in the year I didn't have roses in bloom; my neighbour's garden looked splendid in April with a mixture of parrot tulips and spray chrysanthemums; all the magnolias are flowering for the third time; and my dad's been picking apples for a month.
waiting for a bus on the Pardendale Road
I used to not mind, or even quite like, rainy summer's days. I used to scoff at friends who became depressed at a cloudburst: "what are you doing in the damp bit of North-West Europe if you can't stand a bit of rain?"

Ah me. It must be an age thing. Splashing about in puddles doesn't have the appeal it used to.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tales of Himmler's Aunt

A chance reference to R.C. Robertson-Glasgow in a cricketing book I was reading led me back to my bookshelves to enjoy again that author's collection of cod autobiographies "I Was Himmler's Aunt" (Herbert Jenkins, 1940, with dust jacket).

A quick scout through some of these burlesques -- Sir Seemly Mallow's ambitions to influence politics whilst coping with the Rabelaisian doings of his uncle Lamming; an Irish gentleman's tales of the old school (and the threat of his forthcoming book: 'Seventy-five Years a Lifeguardsman'); Squinto Evans' intimate revelations of life, love and song in a Welsh mining village; and, of course, the lady of the title (appearing, appropriately, halfway through the book) -- convinces me of one thing:

A considerable amount of the blogosphere, including, one suspects, this blog, is written by the ghost of R.C. Robertson-Glasgow as if by automatic writing or by the influence of Tiptoes Through Tulips, the well-known Indian spirit guide.

I offer as evidence the final two paragraphs of the title piece:

"The woman-commandant comes into my cell soon after the exercising. I am to be released. It is a mistake that has been made. I am the wrong woman. But I am to go. I tell the woman-commandant that I am Himmler's Aunt. 'You were,' she replies, 'but you are no longer. You are to leave.'

**** ****

"But I am Himmler's Aunt. Someone has to be."