Friday, 18 August 2017

Sex, Drugs and Hockey Sticks


All this week, they have been giving us puzzles to solve on the radio. Many of them were set by G.C.H.Q. - Britain's centre of spying with its headquarters in nearby Cheltenham. Cheltenham is known for two things in particular: the intelligence headquarters and the finishing school for young ladies.

It seems that G.C.H.Q. actually advertises for spies these days rather than just pop round to the school for young ladies at the end of term to eye-up the talent. The puzzles are part of the entrance exam.

Todays puzzle was this: There is a single storied building with 50 straight walls but no ground plan exists for it. How many security cameras would you need to observe every part of the building?

I vaguely began to divide 50 by four and stopped when I could not work out how many corridors connecting the rooms there might be. Then some spark gave the game away by coming up with a possibly correct answer.

If the ground plan was circular and the walls radiated from the middle, you would need one camera in the centre to see every part of the space.

I was looking for a picture of Cheltenham Ladies College to find the above, and saw that an ex-pupil has written a book with the title I have given this post. I wonder if it is still in print...

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Wolf spirit haunts Bath street


Between showers and between being wet and being dry, the road outside is trying to convince me it is made of lizard, shark or dinosaur skin.

It has been quite a few years since I have made any figurative sculpture, but now I remember how you start to see everything in sculptural terms when trying to come up with solutions to 3D representational problems. Currently, it is pheasant's legs. Have you ever looked closely at the skin on the legs of a pheasant? The link between dinosaurs and birds becomes much clearer when you do.

When I was carving life-sized classical figures, I would find myself staring intently at the curve of a woman's arm at a party or wherever. When I was carving women's backsides, I was amazed at how much information I could effortlessly draw on which I had gathered over the years for other reasons.

Sometimes I overtake a woman in the street and recognise her from behind as someone I saw a few days ago, purely from the shape of her arse. I am good at retaining some information and very bad at others. I routinely correctly guess the nationality of women by the shape of their arses. The Spanish have the most distinct and easy to identify backsides.

I cannot remember the name of the autistic kid who was spotted by a famous British architect for having a truly photographic memory for architecture. He liked buildings.

His parents first noticed his prodigious skill after taking him out one day when he saw a large building which impressed him. When he got home he decided to draw it. It was correct in every minute detail.

The architect made a TV documentary with the boy, and in it he takes him to a few large London buildings. The boy looked at them - rather casually - for a matter of seconds, then went back to the office to reproduce them in pencil on paper. Every crocket, every pinnacle, every window and every detail was remembered and put down, the exact number of windows and precise juxtapositions in perfect scale to each other.

Ok, I know a woman's backside isn't quite as complex as Kings Cross Station, but there is more going on than just a couple of buns stuck next to each other.

Now here's a strange thing. Yesterday I heard the sound of a child howling like a wolf, and I looked out to see a young Arab boy with his lips pursed, howling into the sky as his parents made a phone call.

Just now I heard the same noise and I looked out expecting to see the same lad, but there was a young girl of the same age, making the same noise in the same place as she walked with her parents.

I might go down and see if I am affected by some sort wolf presence on that spot, but I think you probably have to be a child.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tweet of the day

I thought I might be able to relax without any more bloody Tweets from Trump tonight, but guess what? He has sacked ALL of his business advisors now!

This means that there is absolutely no way that he can get U.S. manufacturing back on its feet, which was a key promise for his election.

Now, come on. Let's hear one of you supporters say - yet again - that he should be given a chance to prove himself.

Go on, expose yourself to ridicule - I dare you.

Go ahead, Yogi. Make my day...


In this bright new dawn, I find I have ceased to be the despicable, crawling, resentful, socialist maggot of yesterday and have turned into a beautiful fresh butterfly with its whole life ahead of it. My glass is again half-full.... oh, wait...

Interspersed between the latest press conferences for Trump to clarify his attitude to nazis and white supremacists once and for all, there is another snippet of news about  a bit of legislation emanating from his office.

It is now legal to shoot bears with cubs in the USA.

Even American hunters are baffled by this change in the law, as none of them can think of anyone who hunts who would want to shoot a mother bear with its cubs.

Trump is beginning to make Disney villains look ridiculous.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The politics of resentment

Ok, I finally admit it - I am a left-winger.

If being 'left-wing' means that you find it somewhat hard to take when Network Rail takes billions of pounds of British tax payers money to electrify the line between London and Bristol; makes everyone's lives difficult during the initial work by taking over yards and parking spots for over a year; gives all the lucrative contracts to outsiders; refuses to invest any of its own money into the project for the sake of shareholders; announces that they have run our of money and cannot complete the contract without further public investment, and THEN announce that they are putting up all fairs on all routes by about 3% over inflation and 4% over any ordinary wage increases.

Now I can just hear certain retired ex-pats who have made their fortunes by both hook and crook with the system as it was in times when it could be milked by ordinary people, accusing me of displaying the politics of resentment.  Fucking right I am resentful.

There are middle-class people here who can only just afford food for their families, and their future is looking very uncertain.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Past, present and future


Just a few words about Charlottesville. There is a British equivalent to the backlash against monuments to past dignitaries who have made their success, fame or wealth - in one way or another - by the direct or indirect oppression of black people, whose heritage consists of a brief, 400 year history since their relatives were taken from Africa as slaves.

Bristol is very close to Bath, and is a port which grew very wealthy on the sugar, spice and associated slave trade. The city was built from the profits to be had from it, and the dignitaries at its height were the ones who profited the most.

Edward Colston was an early 18th century slave-trader and merchant there who built a school (for white children) and his name is commemorated in the Colston Hall, which - like Carnegie Hall - is a venue for music and other high-class entertainment.

There is an understandable movement to re-name the hall (I think The Nelson Mandela Hall was put forward) and I think that this will probably happen sooner or later. Bristol has a relatively large group of people with West Indian origins.

There are many statues and plaques around the country and in British universities which celebrate dignitaries with what is now considered a morally dubious past, and there are many movements which want to see these statues either taken down or the buildings re-named, despite - or because of - where the money to erect them came from.

The Soviets re-named St Petersburg as Leningrad, and now it has gone back to St Petersburg.

I don't know anything about Robert E Lee other than he was a Confederate General who  - also understandably - opposed taking the vote away from ex-Confederates and giving it to freed slaves, and I only learned this in the last few minutes.

The other thing to be remembered is that nazis always rise to the surface during times of economic hardship.

It seems that - as ever - some things are always worth dying for and a quiet life in the shadow of our forebears is hard to lead, no matter where they came from.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Mini rant

I keep meaning to offload the fact that the latest over-used phrase that I find as irritating as the 2 second repeating video clips that some people here use as header photos is 'any way, shape or form'.