Sunday, 30 January 2011

My man Mozart, the egregious Tony Blair, three cheers for Neville Brody and Mandy Rice-Davies (again. Hi, Mandy)

There are times when a beautiful piece of music demands to be pissed about with. This is one of my favourite short pieces. and when I hear it, I think of just one thing - traffic. Some things simply have a companion with which they will forever be associated whatever the weather: strawberries and cream, Russia and corruption, Britain and rain, and, of course, Mozart and traffic.

I am indebted to my good friend Jacques Pernod for all the help and advice he has given me over the years, and he, I’m sure, would also like me to mention his assistants Peter Schnaps & Dieter Esel.

. . .

Few crises survive beyond a few hours without an appearance by the egregious Tony Blair. So with the crisis in Egypt: Blair appeared on Sky TV and did what he always does: state the bloody obvious at great length and with apparent authority as though dispensing a unique wisdom from on high. Here are two quotes from the interview he gave Sky News:
‘What is inevitable is that there’s going to be change and the question is; what change and how do you manage it?’
Then there is this startling insight:
‘Change is inevitable in Egypt and that the country cannot put the “genie back in the bottle”.’
Well, call me a cynical fart, but anyone seeing the images being screened on TV at the moment will have gathered that it isn’t a storm in a teacup. But that’s Blair’s schtick: he says what everyone else knows, but appears to make it sound profound and wise.
I have long, long believed that he suffers from some kind of psychological flaw akin to sociopathy, but without the violence. I have no doubt at all that he really does believe his own bullshit. A few years ago, at a Labour Party conference and when he was still PM, he gave a speech which became increasingly unreal. He seemed to go into a trance. But what he was telling his audience was merely what he knew his audience wanted to hear.
It is always difficult to be objective about someone one dislikes, and I readily admit that I am open to the charge of being biased against him. I also admit that there might still be some who still believe Blair is a man of principle, but I should imagine their number is diminishing by the day. But I do believe that Blair as the man who gives all conmen a bad name, and I am proud to say (although there is no way I could prove as much) that I regarded him as a nine bob note (nine dollar bill, nine kopek piece) long before he was first elected Prime Minister in 1997. As, of course, did a large number of ‘old’ Labour, but who went along with the man because he could apparently deliver an electoral victory. Looking back, and bearing in mind the slow-motion car crash that was the last few years of the Major government, it’s pretty obvious that Sooty and Sweep would also have delivered that victory. The big mystery is how on earth did Neil Kinnock (now Lord Kinnock, natch – nothing seduces an old leftie faster than the smell of ermine) manage to lose against Major in 1992?
I shall not recite the list of Blair’s misdemeanours here as that list will be well-known to those who loathe him and those who still have a soft spot for him (rather as one might have a soft spot for a rogue uncle who you know is purloining any small change he comes across and regularly finishes off the whisky, but who has a raffish charm it is hard to resist). Well, I for one have never found it hard to resist Blair’s raffish charm, his faux sincerity, his ‘man of the people’ act. The only positive thing is that he is now yesterday’s man, and for someone with his ineffable conceit, that will rankle. Good.

. . .

Usual routine on a Monday morning (although later today, as my brother didn’t get up and thereby wake me, but had a lie-in. I assume he had a day off), and I listened to Andrew Marr’s Start The Week in bed, while getting up, and on the way to work. The man himself still irritates me – I cannot rid myself of the suspicion, which seems to be confirmed every time he opens his mouth – that he thinks of himself as rather a bright, well-informed, well-connected and cultured sort of chap, and I have no doubt at all that at some point in the future he will be considered as a suitable candidate to chair the Arts Council and might even land the job. The British Establishment are not daft, and their talent for
survival is without equal. But his guests are usually an interesting bunch, and this morning’s included a Neville Brody (left).
Neville is now about 55 years old, but grew up in the punk era and carried with him that age’s vitality. He first came to prominence as the guy who art designed The Face (which I never read as I was then entering my 30s and really felt it was a magazine for younger people). Many of that magazine’s stylistic devices, often developed because of a lack of money, have been – now there’s a surprise – taken one by mainstream graphic designers working for banks, insurance companies and international conglomerates. But that is not Brody’s fault. He has recently been appointed the head of Department of Communication Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, and started his job on January 1 by promptly renaming the department the Department of Visual Communication. He went on to say that he does not believe in the student/teacher relationship but in ‘collaborative research’. It was at that point that I felt my hackles begin to rise, but I listened on and I’m glad I did. Brody went on to bemoan that for the past 20 odd years, students have been in the grip of a ‘success culture’ where they learnt in order to grab some lucrative employment and make shedloads of money. But the times now being hard, he reckons all that is over and that instead there will be an ‘explosion of ideas’. Well, I bloody well hope he is right. There was nothing quite as disheartening as everyone buckling under to ensure they were fucking rich by the age of 30. And ironically it was the same culture which made the abortion of Brit art and all its ‘conceptual art’ possible. So here’s to far more interesting times. Let’s hope all these new students can somehow shock us without resorting to daubing their work with shit, as those two charlatans Gilbert and George did.
. . .
Part of my daily routine, at some point in between brushing my teeth in the morning and brushing my teeth at night, is
to check how many people have read this blog during the day. I started doing this when I discovered Google’s stats feature, and it tickles me that, for whatever reason, folk as far away as New Zealand, Russia, Canada and Indonesia drop in. How long they stay is another matter, and is not recorded in the stats. And whether it is the same people from those countries is also not indicated, but I do like to think that to a man and woman, they are astonished by the breadth of my learning and interests and do nothing for the rest of the day but tell their friends about ‘this amazing blog I’ve found, man, I mean it’s far out, too much, you gotta, just gotta check it out, I mean, you just gotta, man’. Or something like that. Note that I assume all readers are, like me, raddled sixtysomethings whose best days are long behind them and rooted in the days when we could think of nothing better to do than grow our hair and give each other beads and the clap.
One feature of that facility is to list ‘referring URLs’ and from this something very puzzling has emerged: a disproportionate number of visitors happen upon my blog after tracking down piccies of Many Rice-Davies (above). I can’t even remember in which blog entry she was mentioned, but
I do remember grabbing a picture of her from Google images and using it. And that is the one which leads others to this blog. It has to be said that she is a very attractive woman, although the picture was taken several years ago when she was still a spring chicken. But I like to think she is probably still as attractive, though older. She and Christine Keeler came to prominence in the Profumo affair. Mandy apparently has a head on her shoulders and seems to have thrived. Christine (and I've used the image which is always trotted out on these occasions - sorry, Christine, but it is a nice pic of you) didn’t do so well in life, although for all I know she is happy. Either way, I wish them both well.


  1. Deeply disturbed by your unkind comments about Tony Blair. He was (voice breaks) the People's Prime Minister. (Sob)

  2. You, on the other hand, are kind enough to disregard that the 'e' went missing from 'loathe' (since corrected) and that several commas also went AWOL.
    BTW What is it you do?

  3. in, what is your profession/job/retirement status. As I first put it, it sounds rather abrupt.

  4. Sorry not to have replied earlier. I'm not vain enough to look for replies to my comments on a regular basis. You will note, however, that I have eventually returned.
    I am a retired school chaplain, but spent most of my working life teaching English.
    I wouldn't dream of correcting either spelling or punctuation, as I have vivid memories of being berated by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools for wasting my pupils' time on such trifles, which, it seems, limit their powers of expression. The Minister of Education at the time was a Mrs Thatcher.
    Whatever happened to her? I wonder.

  5. I should have said that I have visited the site several times since 2 February. It just never occurred to me that there might be a reply to my remark about the People's Prime Minister.
    You may be mildly amused to know that I came to your blog via a link from the thread on the Archers message board which you criticised.
    I don't hold with all this nonsense about script writers and story lines. It is the case that the Archers are real, and therefore there can be no cast; so I haven't bothered to go back to the messages. If your case was that the posters are people with time hanging heavy on their hands, who take themselves a darn sight too seriously, I agree with you.
    There seem to be regulars who object to anyone whose views are not identical to their own (so you were not unique in being attacked on your first entry onto the site). One of the reasons I did, in fact return a couple of times was to verify a theory I had formed.
    Yes. There are people who are posting comments while the broadcast is still actually running. How sad is that?

  6. Here's how I got to your blog. My girlfriend was reading in bed in preparation to do a book review on a book about St. Francis of Asissi. Since I was at the computer,she asked me to look up the translation of a latin phrase. After having done so,I typed in the latin phrase "argumentum ad hominem" because I was uncertain of it's exact meaning. This lead me to Wikipedia which cited a legitimate use of an ad hominem argument by Mandy Rice-Davies in her famous response to Lord Astor's claim that he'd never had an affair with her or Christine K. Then I looked up MR-D and found a pic of her which was superimposed on your blog!

  7. Please tell me the name of the Mozart piece. thanks

  8. Dear Wiseacre, the short Mozart piece is the Lacrimosa from his Requiem in D minor. If you send me your email address, I can send you an MP3 of it. If you liked the film (as in 'the film'), you might also like one or two others at
    Or not. Patrick

  9. Ha-ha, I only came to find out why the hell a picture that I had always believed to be of Christine Keeler (sitting on the reversed chair) appeared when I searched to find out what Mandy Rice-Davies looked like...

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