Friday, 31 August 2012

Dear Grapefruitcrazy reader pt.2...

Here we are at the end of August and I'm still no clearer about the ultimate fate of the Grapefruitcrazy blog. It might be time to move on.
I can see the country headed for a tough couple of years - at the very least - which to post about daily would be very depressing, while not to, for example, if I were to comment on our celebrity culture would be to be ignore the real day-to-day problems faced by millions of Britons.
So while I make my mind up the blog will remain open to readers' comments - there is a large archive - and I will check back regularly.
You can email me at in the meanwhile.
Wishing you all the best for the time being. GC

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dear Grapefruitcrazy reader...

...I'll be 'off-air' for most of August. Have a good summer. GC

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

All credit to Tom Daley as Twitter troll arrested

All credit to Tom Daley. It is now being reported the teenage troll arrested by police in connection with allegedly sending the young GB Olympic diver a series of malicious tweets had included threats to drown him.
Initially the arrest was presented by the media as a result of the alleged scummy suggestion Daley had let his late father down by failing to win a medal in the synchronised diving.
It raised questions about the freedom of speech.
However objectionable the suggestion, we don't want the twittersphere being policed on matters of opinion however vile.
But if threats to individuals are made, the police have to take the threat seriously even if actual danger is unlikely.
For his part Daley complained to his Twitter followers about the slur related to his father. He called the troll an "idiot", an understatement in my book.

Monday, 30 July 2012

If only all football matches were as pleasant as Wembley Stadium's Olympic games on Sunday

Giggsy on target
I'm happy to report on a very successful visit to Wembley Stadium yesterday to watch Olympics football.
My £60 ticket produced the best seat I've ever had at a football match - lower tier, exactly on the halfway line.
It provided two games Senegal v Uruguay and Team GB v UAE, the latter we won 3-1 with captain Ryan Giggs opening the scoring.
Access to the stadium from Wembley Park tube station was smooth; everyone in an official capacity guides, police, and security staff were efficient, cheerful, and helpful.
Yes, the food and drink was expensive as it always is at games. Those who hoped to pay with plastic were stymied. Olympics sponsor Visa insisted people could only use its card brand - but it developed a glitch. So it was cash only.
Most refreshing of all was the lighthearted spirit inside the stadium - complete with Mexican waves and bouncy balls.
An absence of aggressive fan behaviour, swearing, and obscene chants made this a safe place to take children - and many families took advantage to do so.
The childish booing of Uruguay striker - and more significantly Liverpool star - Luis Suarez every time he touched the ball was the only reminder of the cauldron of hate games can be.
National anthems were respected even if Giggsy forgot the words to his team's.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

BOA's plan to fill empty Games seats has merit

I'm glad the problem of empty seats at London Olympics venues is creating such a stir. Britain's sportsmen and women need all the support and inspiration they can get from a noisy home crowd. The British Olympic Association's suggestion that seats should only be allowed to remain unfilled for 30 minutes before being offered to fans has merit.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

If privileged bums can't fill Games seats give them to real Olympics fans

I have to put on record my admiration for Danny Boyle's Olympics opening ceremony extravaganza last night.
But it was disappointing to turn on the television today to see so many empty 'posh' seats at the swimming, tennis, and gymnastics arenas.
These are popular sports with armies of fans, who have been disappointed by being denied affordable seats at the London Games.
Lord Coe & Co have got to do some pretty swift arm-twisting of the corporates, who bought blocks of the best seats, to make sure there are privileged bums on them.
Olympic seat prices favoured the wealthy and it's an insult to competitors and sports fans if seats are empty.
I appreciate the organisers can't work miracles. They are obliged to reserve seats for the Olympic family - other sportsmen and women, officials, and the media - with no guarantee they'll show up.
But sponsors and other corporate customers must be encouraged to fill their allocations.
It may be too late to bus in fans - as the Chinese did faced with the same problem four years ago - but at the very least the upper tiers should be allowed to move closer to the action.
I can't believe there will be substantial no-shows for the athletics - it will be an international embarrassment if there are.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Teachers can learn lessons from the London Games

My November 2010 post Why London's 2012 Olympics logo is the worst in the history of the modern Games is clocking up the page views.
But while I don't take back a word, complaining is a national sport in Britain - Mitt Romney, please note.
It doesn't mean us Brits are anything other than excited by staging the Games and wholeheartedly desire its success.
The crowds that turned out across Great Britain to welcome the Olympic flame in the two-month-long relay reflects this enthusiasm.
Rather than just a regeneration of a depressed area of East London, I hope there will be a wider legacy of the Olympics for the country.
I accept there will be a stink if Team GB has a poor medal haul, as there will be in any country whose tally disappoints.
But most of the thousands of sportsmen and women who compete in the next weeks do so with no real expectation of a medal. The taking part is still important.
Somehow the idea has taken hold among the educational establishment that competition is bad for children whether academically or in sporting endeavour.
It was dispiriting when as a schoolboy I found classmates who were brighter or more sporty than myself.
This was an incentive for me to try harder - and if this proved impossible it provided a lesson for life. Make the most of the talents you have got.
It would have been an insult to all at school to 'lower the bar' so there are no losers.
Kids compete. The problem with 'level playing field' educators is they risk drowning childrens' spirit in the vain pursuit of fairness.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Give yourself a treat...

...and make sure you watch the TV broadcast of the Danny Boyle-directed £27 million Isles of Wonder opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games at 8pm GMT tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Why I hope Kristen hasn't cheated on Robert

I know the UK's plummeting economic figures today are of much greater significance but I was more surprised this morning to read magazine allegations that Kristen Stewart had cheated on her Twilight co-star boyfriend Robert Pattinson.
To make matters worse her fling was said to be with her Snow White and the Huntsman film director Rupert Sanders, twice Stewart's age, married, and with two children.
I hope the story is a tissue of lies and the supposed incriminating photographs turn out to be fakes.
Not that I give a fig about the young couple. I've never seen a Pattinson movie and certainly not any of the Twilight series; Stewart I remember from a couple of child actor roles.
Where Pattinson and Stewart surfaced in my meagre knowledge of the world of celebrity was as a young couple, who had conducted their romance with discretion and pleasing modesty.
Having finally admitted they were an item, they seemed very much in love. No dramas, no drunken scenes.
In other words to dust down that over-exploited expression they were rare showbiz "role models."
Well, that's taken a caning today. It just about leaves Michael and Catherine as epitomes of fidelity.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

I know nothing about womens' fashion but...

Summer arrived today and by happy coincidence I had to go into town for a lunchtime drink to meet an old chum to discuss his proposed novel.
On the way from Green Park tube station, the heat, noise, and bustle was made tolerable by the sight of so many attractive women walking along Piccadilly.
Perhaps it's the dirty old man in me but I think the youngsters had it and that their older sisters had lost it.
Girls in their teens and twenties had the confidence of youth, a style in itself. Whatever they wore it was short, tight, and right.
Women in their thirties and beyond didn't know how to cope with the sun. Either they dressed too young in a self-conscious way or else as frumps in shapeless summer dresses and sandals.
They seemed to lack the elegance of older women in, say, Paris or Rome, who have a way of looking casual when the temperature rises that is probably achieved with lots of thought.
When abroad I have been struck by how much attention continental women pay their hairstyles. It's as though their hair is cut to suit their face and the shape of their heads.
In London the hair is dumped on womens' heads regardless of the suitability of the style. It doesn't matter much with youngsters whether wild like a hippy or cropped like a punk.
But get the hair right on an older woman and she's already half way to looking good.

Monday, 23 July 2012

GC gets the Alabama Shakes

Belatedly I've caught up with Alabama Shakes, the blues/soul/rock band fronted by Brittany Howard, who sings like the lovechild of Otis Redding and Janis Jopling.
They've attracted the attention of Jack White and done Letterman and over here Jools Holland; and have a wave-making debut album Boys & Girls.
Its Wikipedia entry charts the band's increasing popularity since its creation in 2009. The official video of Hold On tells all you need to know about Alabama Shakes' future trajectory.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Is Bradley Wiggins the greatest Brit sportsman in modern times?

Tour de France winner Wiggins
By becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France in its 109-year history today, Bradley Wiggins must be considered to be one of the greatest British sportsmen in modern times.
The three week cycle race is the toughest test of endurance in the world.
But for my money Steve Redgrave has poll position to mix sporting metaphors.
He has won rowing gold medals in five consecutive Olympics and must be a shoo-in to light the cauldron at the Games's opening ceremony on Friday.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Friday, 20 July 2012

"Are you happy?" they asked. "Er..." I replied.

I was back in the Square Mile last night at a pub leaving party for a former colleague. Some there hadn't seen me for more than three years since my retirement from newspapers.
In the shifting dynamics of a party where everyone stood - in my book only wimps sit at drinks do's - I found myself in a corner with three women journalists of my acquaintance.
Having quickly established I wasn't in some new gainful employment, one asked the question that wouldn't have occurred to any of the men present.
"Are you happy?"
"Er..." I replied. "Well, no, I wouldn't go that far. Who is?"
"Content. How about content?" asked the second.
"Not really."
"You don't seem unhappy," said the third.
That's because I'm not. I cast around for a word that described my present state of mind.
"Engaged," I said. "Not maritally," I added hastily. "Engaged with life."
Until obliged to I had never thought about my state of mind. Choosing not to accept opiates - neither drugs nor religion - a constant state of happiness has always seemed unachievable to me.
Happiness is a fleeting condition to be enjoyed for the moment and I'm fortunate to say I've had many.
I don't know where the description "engaged" sprung from. But it sums up where I am at the age of 67. Life would be full of disappointments if happiness were the only desired goal.
I much prefer to be "engaged" - getting on with life and every now and again being caught unawares by, yes, happiness.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Victoria Pendleton documentary takes TV Gold

Victoria Pendleton: Cycling's Golden Girl on BBC TV last night ranks as among the best sports documentaries I've ever seen.
I viewed it again today on BBC iPlayer.
My interest in cycling was zero before the programme. But the trailer promoting the life story - both sporting and emotional - of a fit-looking Lycra clad young woman encouraged me enough to switch on at 9pm.
There's no doubt she is very attractive and more than worthy of being the cover girl of next month's Esquire.
But neither this nor even the fact she will be competing at the London Olympics to retain her Gold medal would normally have been enough to sustain my interest. 
But the documentary maker the multi-talented Daniel Gordon, while always sympathetic to Pendleton digs deep enough to discover what help make her tick and the will to win.
A pushy father, a challenging twin brother, the hard taskmaster trainers, and boyfriend Scott - a relationship which rocked the cycling establishment - are all revealed as components in Pendleton's success.
I wish her well in the Games and hope she can retire at  the top.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Brave Val Patterson sets the standard in obituaries

I was touched by the brave and funny obituary of Utah engineer Val Patterson, which he wrote himself before his death at the age of 59 on July 10th from throat cancer.
Talk about seizing the day, every line reflects a love of life.  It's no wonder he has set the internet humming.
The Salt Lake Tribune gives a good account of the story and provides links to Patterson's actual words and that of the Starks Funeral parlor's condolences website page, which has had many thousands of hits.
Patterson's motto was "anything for a laugh" and he entertains readers with some of the pranks and misdemeanours of his youth.
His one regret was the smoking that shortened his life and parted him from his beloved wife of 33 years, Mary Jane.
"He wanted to set a new standard on how obituaries should be written," she said and Patterson did just that.
Read his obit for yourself; you won't invest a more enriching few minutes all year.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tony Blair should support the Chilcot Inquiry's bid to release his Bush papers for publication

Blair and Bush
News today that the publication of the 1 million word report of Sir John Chilcot's Iraq War inquiry will be delayed a year and might even run into 2014 isn't good for Tony Blair.
Britain's former Labour prime minister is itching to get back into public life. 'Friends' - cover for the man himself - suggest he believes he can help Ed Miliband kick David Cameron out of No. 10 in a 2015 General Election.
Blair's critics charge him with giving George Bush nod-and-a-wink support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq before it was put to either the Cabinet or the Commons; the 'dodgy' evidence justifying the attack being a parallel issue.
Sorry - especially to Jaffa - for my cock-up here yesterday. The rest of my lost post went on to say Blair's hide is tough enough to take the pounding he is likely to receive in the Inquiry's report and he cannot hope to return to public life in Britain until it's published. GC

Monday, 16 July 2012

Osborne's job is on the line but the Chancellor's safe for now

Cameron under pressure to sack his pal
The Tory press is gunning for George Osborne blaming the Chancellor's shambolic performance for the Coalition's poor standing.
A General Election tomorrow would see Labour back in office with leader Ed Miliband's reforms hardly begun. Questions about his leadership skills are dead and buried.
The Sun's veteran political commentator Trevor Kavanagh today calls for the Prime Minister to re-shuffle his pal out of No. 11.
Polling suggests that Osborne is the Tories' weakest link. But you dump your finance minister at your peril.
At home Osborne is slammed for his U-turn budget, his failure to introduce growth incentives at the same time as he wields the axe, and his permanent and insufferable smirk.
But his departure viewed from abroad would suggest Britain had gone soft on its determination to cut the deficit.
So I expect David Cameron to hang on to Osborne as long as he can in the hope the economy shows some signs of fluttering back into to life later this year.
But the Prime Minister is not in control of the ship of State buffeted in one direction by his rebellious backbenchers and in the other by unhappy LibDems.
The summer break couldn't come soon enough for the Tories; hostilities resume in the autumn conference season.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

"Jobsworth" was right to pull plug on Springsteen

Over night I must have joined the old farts' brigade. I woke to find I had turned more reactionary than both London mayor Boris Johnson and The Mail on Sunday.
They thought it wrong the plug had been pulled on Bruce Springsteen, during his duets with Paul McCartney towards the end of his concert in Hyde Park last night.
Springsteen and the E Street Band had been due to end their 3 hours+ performance at 10.15pm. Having sailed through the 10.30pm noise curfew agreed with neighbouring councils, the concert organiser turned off the power.
And quite right too was my first thought and I was surprised to find myself on the opposite side of the argument to bastions of the right.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Beckham's absence from Team GB football is wrong

Beckham holding a torch for Team GB
The closer I get to my trip to Wembley to watch Stuart Pearce's Team GB Olympics football side - two weeks tomorrow - the more I regret the manager's decision not to select David Beckham among the trio of oldsters.
I was resigned to the team falling outside of the medals but consoled myself with the thought that here was a chance to celebrate if not a football great then certainly a soccer legend.
Beckham is among the world's most famous sports stars, he had a key role in bringing the Games to London, and he's had a good season at LA Galaxy.
I know the ideals that saw the birth of the modern Games were put to rest when the rise of professional sportsmen and women replaced amateurs - and now it's the winning rather than taking part which is all.
But surely enough of the founding spirit must survive which recognises that Beckham is a decent man - a saint compared to Ryan Giggs, whose presence - on merit - would enrich Team GB not diminish it?
I know football fans much more passionate about the game than myself feel exactly the same way. Pearce shouldn't have let Beckham's name go forward if he intended to snub him.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Scarlett, I share your pain

I see Scarlett Johannson is reported as saying she's lost film roles because she's considered too sexy.
I can't say it's ever held me back.
Indeed here's a picture of me in bed.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

King's Cross - will demand match the opportunities?

I took a look at the development north of London's King's Cross railway station this afternoon. Already years under construction, with parts becoming accessible to the public, its ambition is becoming clearer.
It is the biggest undertaking - offices, shops, restaurants, residential, public spaces, and a university - in central London in 150 years.
Big enough to have its own postal district - N1C - the 8 million square feet project, which gained its main planning consent in 2006, still has a long way to go to completion.
It has a superb location but I wonder if demand will match the opportunities it presents given the gloomy economic climate is unlikely to lighten any time soon.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Getting Olympics tickets is only half the battle - getting inside the stadium might be even harder

My Olympic Games tickets arrived today - my son and I are going to watch football Team GB play UAE at Wembley Stadium on July 29th.
I had already started ringing the Games customer phoneline (with no luck) about their no-show.
So you'd imagine my worries were over. Not a bit of it following the "critical information" email - a few does and mostly don'ts" - I received later in the day.
It advises we arrive hours early to clear security and to expect to empty our pockets when we are checked through.
It's best if we bring no bags at all. Transport will be very busy and inside the ground only Visa cards and cash will be accepted for payment.
There's a long list of "prohibited and restricted items" from firearms (phew!) to bottles of liquids over 100ml capacity.
Large flags, rattles, flares, and musical instruments are banned, so it's not all bad. But you can't bring your own booze.
The warning seems to suggest if you bring a baby, security personnel reserve the right to taste a liquid if it's said to be breast milk.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

10 reasons why Tory MP Nick Boles should think again before bashing 'well-off' pensioners

Nick Boles
'Well-off' pensioners face being stripped of some or all of their additional State benefits after the 2015 General Election, if David Cameron's MP pal Nick Boles has his way.
Boles has his sights on free prescriptions, travel, the winter fuel allowance and free TV licences of the over-75s; and it is hard to make a case that wealthy OAPs should enjoy these extras.
But there are aspects of the law of unexpected consequences,  which MPs should consider before they jump on the granny-bashing bandwagon.

1. Means-testing the benefits sends out the wrong message, because it penalises those who have spent a lifetime saving for their old age.
2. On the subject of saving, pensioners are being punished by next-to-zero returns as a direct result of current interest rate policy. Labour's mismanagement, spendthrift borrowers and incompetent bankers have forced the Bank of England to artificially depress savings rates.
3. Means-testing is expensive and inefficient in its nature. It's a pity Boles isn't as concerned about those pensioners, who, for whatever reason, do not receive their full benefits entitlement.
4. Much will depend at what income level  OAPs are considered to be better off. Having established the principle, you can bet the screw would be tightened in future years.
5. Once again it will be the squeezed middle not millionaire pensioners who will feel the pain.
6. Different rules will apply in Scotland and Wales underlining the unfairness of the proposals.
7. Scrapping free prescriptions will deter some elderly from visiting their GPs leaving hospitals to intervene when illnesses become expensive emergencies.
8. Enforced belt-tightening on pensioners will leave them less money to spend in the high street.
9. It will also see them less able to help their children and grandchildren financially.
10. Boles should stop looking at well-off pensioners as a breed apart. When they die their wealth doesn't evaporate. It is distributed - with the State taking a chunk.
He would be well advised to have a look at the benefits, subsidies, and goldplated pensions that MPs continue to enjoy despite many of them being caught with their hands in the till in the expenses scandal.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A zebra crossing, a young boy, an old man - then and now

The Beatles crossing Abbey Road
I must have been around 10 years old when zebra (pedestrian) crossings were still a relatively new innovation.
I have a clear recollection using one to cross the road near the family home not far from London's Oxford Circus, the traffic having stopped to allow me to do so.
On reaching the far side an old man, a stranger, spoke to me. He lectured me briefly on the correct etiquette when using a zebra crossing; I should have acknowledged the motorist that had halted.
To this day, I always give a small wave of recognition just as the old man had suggested.
Fifty years on though we have lost something; I couldn't do the same as him in a similar situation.
I'd be arrested talking to small boys about anything; and told where to go by bigger ones if I advised them to deposit their rubbish in waste bins. I could be risking life and limb telling even bigger ones to take their feet off bus seats.
Pity really, don't you think?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The dumbest thing I was ever told

A not-so-nice old lady once told me she believed the world's starving children owed their fate to misdeeds in former lives.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The dumbest thing I ever said

OK, I was caught off-guard by her frankness but I shouldn't have replied to a woman colleague on being told of her breast cancer diagnosis: "I bet you could have done without that."

Friday, 6 July 2012

Who's to blame for Twitter's #bedofshame ?

I've heard of neither him or his reality TV show but according to The Sun there is an unpleasant sounding individual I won't bother to name, who has kicked off the #bedofshame Twitter trend.
The idea is that 'lads', like himself, distribute mobile phone pictures of their sleeping - and therefore non-consenting - one-night-stands on the social network.
The consequent backlash prompted a Twitter retreat on his part. But for me the same thought crossed my mind as frustrated me when I hit my twenties in the Swinging Sixties.
Why was it despite womens' liberation many remain keen to jump into bed after a few hours' acquaintance with men whom they should know will treat them badly?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Boring, boring Wimbledon - or come on, Tim

It never occurred to me before just how boring Wimbledon fortnight is - and that's with Andy Murray still in the competition.
Or maybe that's how it's become or else, if you insist, how it's become for me.
The characters are gone from the game and their place, mostly, taken by assembly line East Europeans with names like a losing hand of Scrabble.
When I was a Fleet Street journalist I turned down many corporate invitations to a day out at the Championships. Sitting in the sun (or rain), looking from left to right and back again for hours on end seemed a high price to pay for strawberries and cream and a glass of Champagne.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Counting The Beats by Robert Graves

It was a toss-up today whether to write about the performance of Andy Murray or Bob Diamond; or something more important. So here is one of my favourite love poems. Make of it what you will; I know it has always spoken to me.

Counting The Beats by Robert Graves

You, love, and I,
(He whispers) you and I,
And if no more than only you and I
What care you or I?

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Cloudless day,
Night, and a cloudless day;
Yet the huge storm will burst upon their heads one day
From a bitter sky.

Where shall we be,
(She whispers) where shall we be,
When death strikes home, O where then shall we be
Who were you and I?

Not there but here,
(He whispers) only here,
As we are, here, together, now and here,
Always you and I.

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Diamond's exit will open a can of financial worms

Bob Diamond
As I wrote on Thursday, Barclays boss Bob Diamond was "living on borrowed time" so there is little to examine in his inevitable resignation other than to say it frees him up to be more frank when he goes to the Commons tomorrow.
As Guido Fawkes establishes today the ramifications of manipulating the key Libor interest rate downwards is much more explosive than pushing it upwards.
In the latter making a fast buck was the goal; but in the former the intention was to make the bank concerned - Barclays is unlikely to have been alone - appear more financially secure than it was.

Monday, 2 July 2012

What happened to our summer?

Last month turned out to be the wettest June on record and July has started no better.
But what really gets under my skin is the thought that the days are already getting shorter.
I'd be a big fan of Scottish independence if I thought it would free up England to change the clocks to our liking. What we need is GMT +2 in summer and GMT +1 in winter; the Scots have long resisted the idea.
Stepping into line with much of the continent would be a bonus but that doesn't matter much to me.
What I long for is lighter evenings. There are the practical benefits of energy saving with less necessity for artifical lighting and fewer road deaths.
Best of all, in my opinion, is that such a move would lift this country's spirits by making after-work hours more pleasant and fruitful.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Farewell Euro 2012 - GC has great hopes for the final

There's less than an hour to the kick-off of the Euro 2012 final. The group stages and the knock-out rounds have been a credit to the 'beautiful game' and the co-hosts Poland and Ukraine.
I'll be cheering on Italy. Spain is a great footballing side but sometimes its tippy-tappy possession can get tedious; although if only England had the skill to be equally dull.
An Italy victory would also underline that the ill-prepared, injury-hit England side did pretty well all things considered.
We took the Italians to penalties, when in the next round they defeated the Germans in 90 minutes.
So to have been eliminated by the ultimate winners will be no disgrace.
If Spain do win its team, however, will be worthy champions.
It's been a great competition, an advertisement for the game. I shall miss my regular dose of top class international football.
PS In the event winners Spain were magnificent; the team delivered a masterclass. Italy looked exhausted by its efforts to make the final but nobody could have lived with their opponents.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

The two Johns and a blistering video exposing the greed of investment bankers

Stick with this glorious piss-take of investment banking - and the greed and heartlessness of its practioners - by the two Johns, Bird and Fortune at the height of the last financial crisis.
Nothing has changed in the Square Mile since it was first broadcast apart from the Government in power - and now we can add actual deceit to the guilt.

Friday, 29 June 2012

45 years ago GC fell among thieves and it still hurts

On reading the story about how a bus-load of police arrested a large gang of Romanian three-card-trick con men on Westminister Bridge recently, you might reasonably ask how members of the public allow themselves to be such mugs in the first place.
Well I would if I hadn't lost a week's wages to similar street tricksters. It still hurts and I can remember every second even though it was more than 45 years ago.
In a side street off Charing Cross Road I stopped to watch a small crowd gathered around the 'dealer' who was shuffling three cards face down on an upended cardboard box inviting the 'watchers' to Find the Lady (the Queen).

Thursday, 28 June 2012

How long can Barclays boss Diamond keep his job?

Diamond isn't forever
I never thought it possible a new banking scandal could come along that would dwarf the subprime mortgages debacle, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the nationalisation of Northern Rock rolled into one.
But news that Barclays had been fined £290 million for manipulating the key Libor interest rate does just that.
Where the motive forces were once the toxic blend of greed and incomptence, one must now add criminal deceit. The prospect is that the bank was not alone.
Barclays boss Bob Diamond is living on borrowed time. Opinion is growing which will sweep him from the bank's boardroom. "Nothing to do with me, guv," is a defence, which won't placate his critics regardless of whether it is justified or not.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The one about six senior citizens, two double beds, and Las Vegas

I like the story of the three couples - senior citizens and friends since childhood - who regularly holiday together.
This year they decided to be more adventurous. Rather than their usual Spanish villa, they flew to Las Vegas.
Disappointingly after the long flight, when they got to their hotel they discovered a mistake over dates meant their three rooms were booked from the next day.
"I'm sorry," said the girl at the reception desk, "there are four conventions in town and all we have left for tonight are two double rooms. I could ring round but I expect everywhere will be full."
"Let's take the two rooms," said Bob's wife Gladys. "American beds are enormous; for one night we girls can squeeze up together - and the boys can do the same in their room."
And so it was decided. A quick shower and change of clothes and the six friends headed off into the night.
They dined and wined, gambled, took in a show, danced, and wined some more. Exhausted but ecstatic they arrived back at their hotel. The men and women went to their separate rooms.
As luck would have it Bob found himself in the middle of the bed sandwiched between his pals - and unable to sleep. "Are either of you blokes awake?" he whispered.
"Me," said Barry.
"Sorry, mate," said Bob, "I've got to climb over you and get dressed. I don't know what this town does to a person but I've got a hard-on you could cut glass. Things haven't been great in that department for years and I'll never forgive myself if I don't go and find Gladys."
"I'd better come with you," said Barry, "it's me you're holding."

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Fuel tax U-turn points to car crash economy

The Daily Telegraph has counted 32 Coalition Government U-turns. Correction: 33 after today's announcement scrapping August's 3p fuel duty hike.
This latest retreat seems to have caught out the Tory supporters, who were busily defending the increase including the Government's Whip's Office.
The scary part of this woolly approach to budget finance is that George Osborne thought fit to boast the postponement was a boon to families.
Perhaps the Chancellor would care to explain how our lives are enriched by the prospect of not paying extra tax?
Maybe he should have proposed making the increase 6p - and then when axing it we could thank him for twice the benefit.

Monday, 25 June 2012

England football fans are hurting

I've been surprised by the quantity of do-do England football fans have dumped on the national team in the wake of its quarter finals defeat on penalties to Italy at Euro 2012 last night; at least as far as phone-in callers are concerned.
Admittedly this isn't a fair cross-section of opinion; usually you only take the trouble to phone a radio station if you have a particular beef. The same fans were predicting we'd struggle to get out of the knock-out stages.
It would have been an injustice if Italy had gone home - and we've avoided the risk of being humiliated by the Germans on Thursday.
The pity is we had a 20 minute or so spell at the beginning of the game when we held the ball and were passing it well. And that was it; for the rest of the time we were hanging on.
So much depended on a flash of magic from Wayne Rooney but it didn't happen. In the end John Terry was my man of England's match.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Show RCA 2012 rescued for GC by its Kensington exhibits

Contuse: Jane Hunt (photo: Matthew Booth)
Having taken so strongly against the Battersea arm of the Royal College of Art's student summer show, I feel bound to admit how much I enjoyed today's visit to the Show RCA 2012 exhibition in Kensington Gore.
To me relevance is key in Art whether of the senses or the material world. I found little in Battersea to admire among what are broadly Fine Art programmes. The extra space afforded by the site seems to have engendered isolation from the world outside.
The opposite was true in the design-led Kensington show.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Roy Hodgson has already proved he's the right man to manage England

Roy Hodgson
Euro 2012 is turning out a delight. Sometimes calling football "the beautiful game" is said ironically. But to date the contest hosted by Poland and Ukraine has passed all expectations in the quality of football and the general absence of scandal on and off the park.
Making it all the better from an English perspective has been the national side topping its group and making it into the quarter finals.
Even if we're knocked out by Italy tomorrow, the team will have acquitted itself well given the low expectations prior to the start of the competition.
Roy Hodgson has already proved he was the right man for the England manager's job despite the doubters including, I have to admit, myself.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Cameron will rue taking moral high ground on tax

Given his PR background David Cameron should have known better than commit the elementary gaffe of a sound-bite condemnation that will haunt the Prime Minister until his last day at No. 10.
By criticising comedian Jimmy Carr's now-repudiated tax avoidance scheme and their ilk as being "morally wrong" he has opened Pandora's Box. It is now open season on hunt the tax cheat; if Carr is castigated then it would be hypocrisy not to chastise similar 'offenders'.
Tax efficient schemes or legal dodges, call them what you will, are so widespread the likelihood is that some Tory Party backers - and probably among the millionaire members of the Front Bench itself - perhaps Cameron's own blue-bloodied family have exploited money-saving tax loopholes.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Show RCA 2012 - Battersea's underpowered station

My trip to the Royal College of Art student summer show in Battersea today was an altogether depressing affair.
I'm untutored in art other than an interest that is already 50 years old. I'll admit to a preference for painting (abstract or realist, it's a broad church) and little enthusiasm for video.
I approach each art work with I like to think an open mind hoping to be moved but ready to settle for being engaged. You're free to disagree with this assessment.
In Battersea I visited four sites and toured the photography, printing making, and sculpture sections without finding anything to make me dally. So too the poor-cousin painting entries. Only the design area had any vibe.
Perhaps the fault is mine; but I suggest the error is elsewhere. If the inflated price tags of the works are a guide, the students enjoy massive egos. So they don't deserve any benefit of the doubt that they are just starting out.
There are questions I'd like to ask their teachers.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

"Let me be a burden on my children" says Roger McGough - and GC agrees

I'm grateful to my sister, who in response to my Father's Day post on Sunday reminded me of the following poem by the ever-excellent Roger McGough. 


O Lord, let me be a burden on my children
For long they've been a burden upon me.
May they fetch and carry, clean and scrub
And do so cheerfully.

Let them take it in turns at putting me up
Nice sunny rooms at the top of the stairs
With a walk-in bath and lift installed
At great expense.....Theirs.

Insurance against the body-blows of time
Isn't that what having children's all about?
To bring them up knowing that they owe you
And can't contract out?

What is money for but to spend on their schooling?
Designer clothes, mindless hobbies, usual stuff.
Then as soon as they're earning, off they go
Well, enough's enough.

It's been a blessing watching them develop
The parental pride we felt as each one grew.
But Lord, let me be a burden on my children
And on my children's children too.
© Roger McGough

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Breadline Britain - Guardian investigation highlights the threat of poverty faced by millions in work and not on benefit

I was reminded of Thoreau's famous observation: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" when reading The Guardian's series on Breadline Britain.
It highlighted a large section of British society, who are in work and not receiving State support, yet have an income that  doesn't match their necessary outgoings.
This is nothing to do with the "squeezed middle" - this is about the threat millions of people face of genuine poverty. This is about salaries being frozen while the cost of living relentlessly rises. The data is incontrovertible.
It suggests the obsession of Tories like Iain Duncan Smith focused on getting "benefit scroungers" into employment misses the much greater danger to society.
PS. Today's report on school children going hungry is deeply disturbing. Come on Miliband, speak up.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Wishing Jack Osbourne all the best to "adapt and overcome" his MS challenge

Jack Osbourne
I've been thinking all day why I've been so struck by the news Jack Osbourne, Ozzy and Sharon's son, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
I know he is one of many and that he will receive the best medical care; so it's something more than the dreadful disease itself.
I had watched only a handful of  episodes of the family reality show when he was a teenager and, later, even fewer of his own extreme sports series Adrenaline Junkie.
But such is the nature of celebrity culture that even on this brief acquaintance I formed an impression of a man whom I rather liked.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Spicy reflections on Father's Day

I'm in reflective mood after enjoying a Father's Day lunch with my two middle-to-late twenties children.
When did they first become such pleasant company - OK, once they put away their smart phones?
It seems like only yesterday they'd complain if they had to walk to the corner; and then only with the promise of plain food like chicken nuggets or hamburgers.
Today required a long stroll to reach an excellent curry restaurant - of their choice - and they paid. Perfect.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Andrew Neil has the best of Iannucci-Campbell row

I see I'm not the only one surprised satirist Armando Iannucci accepted an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honour's. The man behind The Thick Of It has taken some stick from Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's spinner-in-chief and the inspration for the comedy show's foulmouthed Malcolm Tucker.
Here's some of the Twitter exchange in The Guardian's online story.
Alistair Campbell: @ campbellclaret So @ AIannucci OBE joins the Establishment he claims to deride. Malcom Tucker and I do not approve of honours system
Armando Iannucci: @ AIannucci It's probably more Establishment to order your army to march into other countries for no reason. Swings and roundabouts
Alistair Campbell: @ campbellclaret you see, your wit a bit tired and blunt already. Three little letters can have more impact than you realise. Tut Tut
Armando Iannucci: @ AIannucci WMD
Iannucci argued it would have been bad manners to have refused the award.
But I agree with Andrew Neil who tweeted, The Guardian reports, "Why would somebody who constantly parades their anti-establishment credentials accept such a bauble?" ...adding that he believed journalists should also never accept honours "from people we are supposed to be holding to account".

Friday, 15 June 2012

Peter Hitchens: a talent to provoke

Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday columnist, was trending on Twitter long after the close of BBC 1's Question Time last night.
Hitchens had lived up to his ultra conservative reputation and attracted a shower of liberal criticism.
The tweets backed fellow-panellist Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow Attorney General, who accused Hitchens of suggesting single parent families on benefit were synonymous with problem families.
He denied the charge. Judge for yourself on this link.
I have seen Hitchens close up having worked on the same newspaper as him nearly 15 years ago*.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I can't tell a lie - The Washington is the ideal local

I popped into The Washington pub, Englands Lane, Belsize Park for a quick pint this afternoon.
More than 40 years ago it was a scruffy boozer where student friends would play Clapton-inspired blues gigs once a week.
It's still a popular watering hole if a little shaky on geography claiming to be in Hampstead.
There's a full menu where once the bill of fare didn't run beyond crisps. Should you just want a sandwich they are of the focaccia and ciabatta variety. But its pretentious lapses are forgivable.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

GC's curbed enthusiasm for Michael Frayn's Skios

I have now read Michael Frayn's farcical Skios - the subject of a recent GC post - and I'm prompted to add a postscript.
In Up the Amazon - or what's a bookloving pensioner to do? I worried at my own disloyalty to local bookshops by buying a copy of the novel half-price at £8 from Amazon.
Call me tight-fisted but I would now be feeling more guilty had I enjoyed the book - a hectic catalogue of mistaken identity - more.
In my book, the novel, an intricate weaving of switched suitcases, lost passports, national stereotyping, failing mobile phones, frustrated passion and a couple of laugh out loud moments, is still a good 7 out of 10.
I don't consider the read time wasted but I wondered at some of the superlative endorsements on the Skios dust jacket.
I checked on one of them. "Michael Frayn must have the subtlest mind ever applied to the writing of farce," wrote Michael Billington in The Guardian.
I found it attached to a review of the revival of Frayn's hit play Noises Off rather anything to do with Skios.
I'm too polite to point this out to the author when I attend his star turn at this year's Primrose Hill Lectures in a few weeks.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Gay marriage: the Church must recognise times change

Although now an atheist I continued to have a soft spot for the Church of England for many years. I went to a C. of E. primary school as did both of my children and I have nothing but praise for how we were taught - including religious instruction.
I  liked the kindly, all-embracing brand of Christianity to be found in the schools and their parish churches.
So it was difficult for me to understand in later years the dogged resistance to women holding high office in the Church.
Now it is downright impossible for me to sympathise with the ferocious opposition by Anglican conservatives to the Government's plan to legalise same-sex marriages.

Monday, 11 June 2012

On googling Madonnas' breasts

It would be nice to think the recent surge in page views internationally of my April 23rd post Some nipples are better than others at MailOnline is belated recognition of the excellence of my examination of media double-standards. Unfortunately, I know better.
At the weekend Madonna caused a stir by flashing a nipple at her Istanbul concert and the curious have been googling for sight of the event ever since - despite nudity being a regular feature of the Queen of Pop's career.
My Some nipples post has been showing up in searches because it included an unrelated nude picture of the ageless star.
I hope Leonardo's serene Madonna Litta will receive similar attention with more spiritually uplifting results.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Internet trolls ridiculed by comedian Isabel Fay

I've just caught up with comedian Isabel Fay's clever video Thank You Hater! ridiculing internet trolls, cyberbullies, whatever you want to call the mindless barrel scrapings, who share the mistaken belief they can spew their bile in the cowardly expectation they will always preserve their anonymity.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Win, lose, or draw the England team must be a credit to our nation.

Three Euro 2012 matches in + the last 20 minutes of Germany v Portugal have been adverts for the beautiful game.
Being a natural born Englishman I'm steeled for disappointment from our national team, which opens its campaign against France on Monday afternoon.
The French had an even worse World Cup in South Africa than us but somehow have managed to rebuild their team to the extent a draw is probably the best we can hope for - and reaching the later rounds of the knockout stages an absolute triumph.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Grapefruitcrazy prepares for a Summer of sport

With Euro 2012 kicking off in a few hours and less than 50 days until the London Olympics, I anticipate I'll be spending less time on my daily posts. No bad thing you may think given the power of Twitter with 140 characters or less.
I'm not sports mad. But these days sports stories provide a welcome escape from real news, which is usually dreadful whether it's the latest massacre in Syria or the Spanish economy on a knife edge or some natural disaster in between.
With sport, I've always been impressed by those who can do what I can't. Not so much now but when I was working I got to meet many sports men and women, both professional and amateur; and enjoyed the experience.
They exude a confidence that perhaps comes from testing the limits of their physical ability. What you see is what you get. So much better than those more intellectually-inclined - and insecure.
When it comes to fans, of course, I condemn the thuggish among them. But there is a legion of enthusiasts who are passionate, knowledgeable, articulate, and loyal - qualities which are often in short supply elsewhere in society.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

How misguided planners tore the heart out of Deptford High Steet: BBC 2's anger-inducing opener

If you missed it on BBC 2 last night catch up with The Secret History of Our Streets. The first episode about Deptford High Street left me seething with anger. 
The area called 'the Oxford Street of South London' at the time Charles Booth was mapping the distribution of social classes in 1886, had its heart ripped out in the 1970s.
To say Greater London Council planners were misguided is to be charitable. They look like social rather than civil engineers guilty of class snobbery believing they knew what was best for working class communities.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Up the Amazon - or what's a bookloving pensioner to do?

I'm happy, no, relieved to give a plug to the Charing Cross Road Festival on Saturday June 30th.
The Oxford Street end of the road is blighted by the Crossrail development and its bookshops, music stores, and other retail outlets are losing sales in the disruption.
The Charing Cross Road area is a microcosm of London's cultural strength sort of twixt Soho and Covent Garden and includes Denmark Street, our Tin Pan Alley.
For me it's primarily associated with books. I even had a short lived student job at Foyles bookshop, which I immortalised in my post Love on the picket line

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Ten moments from the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert

    Gary and Cheryl
  • Cheryl Cole's duet with Gary Barlow was more than adequate; she didn't deserve over-the-top criticism.
  • Robbie Williams was fine but he benefited from most people's ignorance of Bobby Darin's version of Mack the Knife.
  • Talking of knives, it's time Tom Jones dropped Delilah - an anthem to domestic violence - from his big occasion repertoire.
  • It's a pity Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die is the only one of his songs considered worthy of the fireworks treatment.
  • There should have been only one James Bond theme in the concert - Shirley Bassey's Diamonds Are Forever.
  • Rob Brydon should never have accepted the gig.
  • Grace Jones and her hula hoop added some much needed madness apart from Madness itself on top of Buck House.
  • Kylie Minogue is well on her way to becoming a national treasure even though she's Australian.
  • Rolf Harris should have been allowed to complete Two Little Boys.
  • Production values were high; the Buck House projection was clever; but the BBC shouldn't have run the credits over the fireworks finale.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Proclaimers and Matt Lucas put me in a spin

The Proclaimers, the Scots twins Craig and Charlie Reid, have a great video to accompany a great song Spinning Around in the Air, the first single from Like Comedy, the pair's latest album.
Matt Lucas, the Little Britain star, in his music video directorial debut, has the Reids in drag playing old ladies at a wild Golden Wedding party.
No, I couldn't hear all the lyrics either; a good reason to listen to the song again here.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The BBC wrecks Thames Diamond Jubilee coverage

My jingoism yesterday about no one doing ceremonial occasions better than the Brits proved a bit misplaced.
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was alright; the foul weather literally cast a long shadow over the day. It would have been nice to have watched the 'surprise' fly-past finale.
The bigger disappointment was the BBC's poor production of the event. Here, once again, the rain proved a dampener but they weren't reporting under fire. It's London where there's always a chance it's going to rain.
The celebration wasn't thought through properly. Stephen Fry found the Beeb's coverage "deeply embarrassing" - other critical tweets can be found at #bbcjubilee.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sailing into history - the Thames Jubilee Pageant

Say what you like about the Brits, you have to concede nobody does ceremonial occasions better than us. If you don't believe me watch some of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant - to celebrate the Queen's 60-year reign - tomorrow afternoon. A thousand-strong flotilla will sail into the history books.

Friday, 1 June 2012

"God save the Queen," says GC

On the eve of the four-day celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, it's fair to say Her Majesty is by far the most popular of the Royals.
You would have to be the most extreme republican to believe abolishing the British monarchy would be worth the constitutional turmoil, time, and money.
The public holds politicians in low esteem and a titular president would be no different.
Prince Charles, heir to the throne, however, will never be viewed with the same affection as his mother. Indifference is the best he can hope for. His shabby treatment of Princess Diana made that certain.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

There's fresh hope for civilisation when...

  • the toast lands butter-side up
  • you find you can still squeeze into last summer's shorts
  • the blood test nurse finds a vein at the first attempt
  • your bus/train arrives when it should
  • the sniffy/whiffy passenger gets off at the next stop
  • the shouty mobile phone user gets cut off
  • you know the right answer the TV contestant gets wrong
  • you enjoy a television movie you haven't seen before
  • you have a good night's sleep
  • and dump in the morning

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Coalition's pasty-tax U-turn invites more than ridicule

The Government's pasty-tax U-turn - George Osborne's Budget has taken the Coalition's record of policy retreats to a whole new level - is receiving much deserved ridicule in the Square Mile, as the above chart reprinted from today's City A.M. financial newspaper illustrates.
Not so funny is the increasing loss of confidence in the Government's competence. Voters will not forgive those that imposed the pain of austerity but were clueless about how to restore the nation's fortunes.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Simply about Marks & Spencer past and present

The re-launched Simply M & S
In recent days Marks & Spencer has re-launched its Simply M & S value food range. No shame there; Waitrose kicked off the discount trend a few years ago and every other supermarket chain followed its lead.
But for me seeing the company's recent newspaper advert boasting - among other offers - that it was selling chopped tomatoes as  cheap as 69p a can reminded me how far the company fell off its pedestal.
Forty or so years ago M & S was considered as almost the eighth Wonder of the World. A visit to a store was close to the top of every tourists' itinerary such was the excellence of its clothing and food.
The opening of the first M & S in Paris was treated as the retail equivalent of the Moon landing.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Racism must be confronted head-on at Euro 2012

An Iraq war protester managed to evade heavy security measures at the Law Courts today to launch himself at Tony Blair, as the former British prime minister was giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.
So I don't see much chance of Uefa and the Polish and Ukrainian authorities preventing racist outrages by whole gangs of far-Right football hooligans during the forthcoming Euro 2012 contest.
Policing stadiums will be tough enough but providing 24-hour protection to travelling supporters is a tall order.
Former England captain Sol Campbell tells BBC TV's Panorama programme, English fans should stay home - and the families of black soccer stars Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are doing just that.
Campbell says Poland and Ukraine should never have been awarded the competition in the first place.
But that would have been tantamount to saying rather than tackle racism wherever it raises its ugly head, we should skirt round it.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Dear old Union Jack, it's good to have you back

I'm delighted to see Union Jack flags and bunting making an appearance in my neighbourhood ahead of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations next weekend.
I know historically the flag is associated with Empire and the atrocities committed in its name but the Union Jack is the flag of my childhood.
For all its complexity (which way is up?) it looks like it was designed by a child - and I can remembering trying to draw it in crayon.
It's colourful - in the Sixties it was almost psychedelic.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Memo to self: it's fat thumbs syndrome not senility

Panic. I tried to erase all the stored messages on my land line telephone this morning and managed, somehow, to turn off the answer-phone function.
I'd set the phone up several years before, hadn't tinkered with it since; the instruction manual was long gone - and I couldn't fathom how to restore my recorded message inviting callers "to leave their number."
The same predicament at 30 would have merely irritated me. I've done plenty of more stupid things in my life without worrying about the deteriorating quality of my grey cells.
But now 67, failing to master re-programming my phone, in my frustration, seemed like a sure sign of approaching senility.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Count corner kicks to avoid penalty shoot-outs

Drogba's penalty shoots down Bayern
Football matches which are decided by penalty shoot-outs were a "tragedy", according to Fifa's president Sepp Blatter.
Today he asked  Franz Beckenbauer, who heads Fifa's football task force charged with considering rule changes, to look at alternatives to shoot-outs.
The German football veteran is well-placed for the task; he's honorary president of Bayern Munich, the team which lost the Champions League final on penalties to Chelsea last weekend.
I rather enjoy penalty shoot-outs if 30 minutes of extra time haven't broken a tied result. But I can see the drawbacks.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Leveson Inquiry digs a bigger hole for Jeremy Hunt

It gets worse. Now it appears Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt sent David Cameron a memo supporting News International's acquisition of BSkyB just weeks before the Prime Minister appointed him to replace Vince Cable to oversee the bid.
There was a lot of other potentially comprising evidence unveiled by the Leveson Inquiry today.
I say potentially because innocent until proven guilty, Hunt must be given a chance to have his say at Leveson. His grilling can't come soon enough.
Hunt will be fighting to hang on to his job and perhaps his career in politics.
The judgement of the Prime Minister - the man who gave Andy Coulson a second chance - is back under the microscope.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

"Idiot" Balls must sharpen up his act not his tongue

"muttering idiot"
The pity is Labour supporters think Ed Balls scored a bulls-eye when he forced David Cameron to lose his temper at Prime Minister's Questions today when, in fact, he shot himself in the foot.
Irritated at constant sniping by the Shadow Chancellor, the PM called him a "muttering idiot" and was obliged by the Speaker to withdraw the insult.
The idea is if you goad Cameron enough, he will drop his guard and reveal his true bully-boy Flashman tendencies.
It doesn't work. In the exchange Cameron's short fuse made him look human and Balls the schoolboy.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Thoughts on Primrose Hill, William Blake, George Harrison, and unborn grandchildren

Today seemed like the first hot, sunny day in more than six months. There was no better way to spend the afternoon than on Primrose Hill close to my home in north-west London.
I entered the park and strolled to its summit to look for the umpteenth time at one of the best panoramas the capital has to offer.
The viewpoint is in the process of being smartened up. It has been slightly extended and new seating installed. A semi-circle of stone blocks divides the flat gravel area from the beginning of the grassy descent of the hill.
I arrived to find a mason just completing the carving of the name of the poet, artist, and mystic who drew inspiration from the hill, William Blake, into the stone.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Facebook - great company, greedy IPO

Facebook's shares today fell below last week's $38 IPO level and $104 billion valuation - a retreat a little too swift for comfort.
There may be technical factors at play here related to the flotation, and a rally - in the short term, at least - is on the cards.
But the drop supports the case of those who say Mark Zuckerberg's social network company came to market overpriced, perhaps proving massively so in the long run.
You don't need to be a retired financial journalist such as myself to wonder at the decision of Facebook's advisers to seek a valuation higher than that of established companies such as Amazon, American Express, McDonald's, and Walt Disney.
The ambitious price tag means the company must accelerate its profit making potential rather than aim for steady year-on-year growth.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

When did the soul handshake get a grip?


I must have missed it. When did the soul handshake take over from the traditional one? The soul form - I guess you could describe it as one hand clapping against another person's hand - was the exclusive form of greeting in use throughout Chelsea's glorious claim on the Champions League title yesterday.
Not just player to player but player to dignitaries, officials, and Roman A, the happy owner.
I don't mind but if it's the new etiquette we need to be told.
The Queen is touring Britain ahead of the Jubilee celebration. What if I were to bump into her and there was an embarrassing flapping as we decided how to shake hands?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Can history man Cruddas shape Labour's future?

Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas has had reasonably a good press this week following his acceptance of Ed Miliband's offer to take charge of Labour's policy review.
This Guardian article focuses on the man's strengths. A Labour history academic, he can bring intellectual depth to a party, which currently finds itself short of gravitas among its younger intake of MPs.
But you can have too many grey cells in politics. For example, this admission by Cruddas in a recent speech: "What interests me is not policy as such; rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition within a national story. Less 'The Spirit Level,' more 'What is England'." Chancellor George Osborne ridiculed this waffle in the Commons.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Why I won't be reading Fifty Shades of Grey

I doubt if I shall ever get round to reading the controversial S & M bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.
I couldn't get beyond the first few chapters of Story of O forty years ago, apparently a much better book.
It's not that I'm prudish; let consenting adults seek pleasure wherever they can find it.
But I believe any sexual activity that can draw blood isn't healthy - physically and mentally - for its participants at either end of the whip; nor for those that enjoy reading about it.