Established 2003. Now incorporating The Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wherever End Times

Monday, September 29, 2008

If we can't do it now, when...?

Joe Biden is a master salesman. I happen to agree with what he's saying - I think. I say "I think" because this guy could probably make me think I'm a Dalek, if he turned that Blarney full blast onto me. I have seen salesmen work and this guy is a master.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Harlesden Road, Friday evening

Friday 26 September 2008, 7:36 pm. Sphagnum

Looking west past the 19th century Rising Sun inn*

* Notice the white van parked outside the Rising Sun. Vans and cars parked there often block the pavement like that, so people have to step into the road where traffic speeds down the hill and round the bend from Chambers Lane. Ed

What the papers say

with Russell Brand

1. The Sun. Russell Brand reviewing the ant-brained Sun newspaper for the Secret Policeman's Ball. (Via)

2. The Daily Star. Review of a complete fabrication, baroque in its detail. Brand is up there with the best of them, a sort of cross between Max Wall and Kenneth Williams.

Bob Harmless

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain: Throw in the towel

Sarah Palin flunks CBS interview (Telegraph)

The US presidential race is now a mismatch. It's pathetic. It's like a hopeless boxer being pummelled into a stupor by the champion. Either Obama or Biden would wipe the floor with either of McCain or Palin, or both together. The choice of Palin is now revealed for what it was, an act of desperation, the roundhouse flailing of a boxer whose legs are buckling. No wonder McCain is getting down on one knee, taking a breather from the campaign. The poor guy is out on his feet. If it were a fight it would have beeen stopped by the referee already.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

You buy a bankrupt company for $1 not $700 billion

When you takeover a bankrupt company it is for a nominal fee, £1 or $1, and you take on the debts that it owes. The people who owned the bankrupt company get nothing. And you get the good parts and the bad, you don't just take the failed parts of the business and leave them with the rest. They go out of business. Whatever is done along these lines to rescue banks shouldn't be any different: nobody who has any share in the banks or any position in the banks should get any money in return for the state taking over their liabilities. The very definition of bankruptcy is being worth less than nothing. The $1 is only a token, a legal nicety to validate the contract whereby the new owner takes over the debts. There should be no transfer of public money to the owners or bosses of bankrupt organisations, zero - unless they wish to split $1 between them.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's those little hammers again

Large Hadron Collider Shut Down Until Spring 2009 "Full-power operation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) won't happen until early spring 2009, after an electrical glitch sparked a large helium leak inside the machine's tunnels." (National Geographic)

Electrical glitch my foot. It's like those archaeologists with their little hammers digging out skulls and proclaiming that all ancient people had their skulls smashed with little hammers. They've only gone and caused a rip in spacetime. It is no coincidence that the BBC's atomic clock missed a beat recently and then gave the signal for one hour later.

Laboratoire Kronk

Revolutionary Road - exclusive

If the trailer is anything to go by, this classic version of Wild is the Wind by Nina Simone will be the theme for the new film of Revolutionary Road by director Sam Mendes, from the novel by Richard Yates. I was very lucky to be in the audience for a premier of the trailer (delivered under conditions of high security), together with introductory remarks by the director at the Small Wonder short story festival on Saturday. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates, and it is not due for release till January 2009. The trailer fades in from black to the lonely first notes of this Nina Simone track, which continues throughout.

Noël Knowall for Newsmusic Desk

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

We stand and fight

We don't give up and we never will

Full text: Gordon Brown's speech (to the Labour party conference in Manchester, 2008).

The fair society. Sounds good to me. But why would one fair society be out trying to bomb another society into fairness? That's not very fair.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Darling, I shrunk the banks

Chancellor seeks to reassure delegates following period of unprecedented financial turmoil (Guardian online)

Report and sound clips from the Labour party conference


Small Wonder 2008 - Richard Yates

Following long, tense negotiations by the organisers, leading to secure delivery, and locking of the film in a safe, the audience on Saturday was the first ever to see the trailer for the new Sam Mendes film of the novel "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates. There was also exclusive footage of the director talking about the project. The film will not be released till next year. Lionel Shriver, author of "We Need to Talk About Kevin", then proceeded to explain to us why Richard Yates was such a great writer, and proved it by reading a superb story of his, "A Convalescent Ego", the last in his collected stories*. It consists of a man worrying about the consequences of a small domestic accident, in which he has broken a new cup and saucer from a set that his wife just bought. In a series of brilliant variations on the theme of how to tell her, and the possible gloomy aftermath, he fails to predict the actual, more upbeat outcome.

Noël Knowall

* The Collected Stories of Richard Yates

Small Wonder 2008 - William Trevor

William Trevor's reading was word music, with each phrase following in perfect apposition to the last and the next. He read an old story* about a wedding reception, in which he succeeded in bringing everyone present at it to life. There was a priest who moved between groups, including the mothers of the couple and an aunt, the two fathers, the bride with two of her friends, her two sisters and the husband of one them, waiting, viewed through the window in a car with three children, the groom and two of his friends. All their conversations and thoughts developed in parallel as the story unfolded and people circulated. Every character was distinct and vital. There wasn't one word out of place, or one supefluous, and all followed inexorably from the initial scene to the last detail. It was, he said, about "the small towns of Ireland" (quoting Betjeman)and a world that "no longer exists". He then read a memoir that reflected on a visit to the places of the story and ended on recollections of cinema outings to Cork, and a note of "perfect happiness".

Noël Knowall

* Theresa's Wedding from The Collected Stories by William Trevor

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Harry and Paul

Look for them on YouTube. Especially "The writer and the barmaid" (episode above) and the comedy watcher (I relate to that one strongly.) The funniest and cleverest TV sketch show since the Pythons or The League of Gentlemen?


How to deal with literary rejection

Dylan Moran as Bernard in Black Books

The black cab sessions

"Born in the UK" - Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough)

They have some other interesting sessions, including Death Cab for Cutie (appropriately), the Kooks and, most recently, Brian Wilson - who contacted Black Cab Sessions and asked to be included.

Newsmusic Desk

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Lloyds Bank takes over Halifax

I knew it. Don't you see the black horse in the clouds, leaping over the Halifax ad? Should have known it when that upside down rainbow appeared on Tuesday!

And the time signal from the atomic clock at the BBC was late and added an extra pip (BBC audio link) yesterday morning. Technicians couldn't explain the anomaly. Their diagnosis: "It's thrown a wobbler."

What does it say in the Bible about the rainbow turning upside-down - does that mean the deal is off? Considering the old crock of gold legend, turning it upside down would be a rather apt way to portend bankruptcy. Maybe upstairs is having a laugh at us, or a smile. If so: it's not funny, oh sadistic Fate! (Sorry, I got a little carried away, there.)

Update: It just gets worse. Unlucky black fox seen in Chorley cemetery (BBC video link). "It's said that its colour is black as night so that it can live in a man's shadow without being seen, and it brings doom and disaster to whoever does see it." (So don't click the link, if you don't want to see it.)

Mystic Mavis

Monday, September 15, 2008

The New Writer's Handbook, Volume 2: Books for Writers: Scarletta Press

I have an article in this. Just got my free copy today. (Amazon/Willesden Herald partner link)

The intro by Ted Koooser is interesting. He was US Poet Laureate for a while. He talks about writing "from life" and the comparative poverty of writing from imagination. In one example he says that when describing the scene at a birthday party, it's the lace that's coming away from the edge of a table cloth, or the bent tine on a fork that will evoke it, and not the candles flickering on top of the birthday cake. In other words, he claims that imagination will tend to the cliched. He makes a strong case, but I'm not sure he didn't imagine that lace himself just then, if you see what I mean. It's worth getting hold of the book just to read his intro, really, but there are loads of other interesting articles as well.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

A change is gonna come - on YouTube

A change is gonna come - Sam Cooke
A change is gonna come - Aaron Neville
A change is gonna come - Tina Turner with Robert Cray
A change is gonna come - Patti Labelle
A change is gonna come - Bobby Womack
A change is gonna come - Luther Vandross
A change is gonna come - The Supremes
A change is gonna come - Otis Redding
A change is gonna come - The Manhattans
A change is gonna come - Lauryn Hill
A change is gonna come - Prince Buster
A change is gonna come - Bob Dylan
A change is gonna come - Al Green
A change is gonna come - Leela James
[All broken links! Ed]

Barack Obama on change (speech)

Anybody want to hear John McCain's karaoke version? Nah, didn't think so.

People may not agree with everything that Obama says, but please - the fate of the world could well be at stake. Do you really want holy roller, Alaskan Independence Party turncoat and liar Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from getting control of anything of importance, let alone a vast nuclear arsenal etc? And let's face it, John McCain already has cancer and is partially paralysed.

Newsmusic Desk

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Literary day out


I particularly enjoyed Jay Barnard's (link) poetry reading and Courtia Newland's story, which I'd already read somewhere. It is going to be on BBC4 Afternoon Story next week. There was a very funny story from Gavin Inglis, as well as lots of other delights, some from people listed in my links over there ->.

I offered to provide "post-it note critiques" for short stories, simulating the conditions of reading for a short story competition. About twenty or so landed on my table in the reading room. One thing that occurred to me was that this was a very good way to make enemies and fail to influence people. I felt that I should have worn full Venetian masquerade get-up, like Salieri in the film Amadeus: it was I who needed anonymity, not the writers.

Anyway, I really like reading this way and commenting, though I'm completely unqualified. I wrote on large post-it notes, mostly having to write on the reverse as well, and also marked up the text. There were one or two I'd seen before, amazingly enough.

I left some copies of this competition flyer (A4 version) on the books table there. Here is a version for Letter paper size. Please feel free to pass them on, copy, republish, etc.


Sunday, September 07, 2008


A writers’ unconference

London Metropolitan University
Friday September 12th, 2008

"LitCamp is a space for writers to meet, talk, and share ideas and experience. On the day you’ll meet publishers, agents and other writers in an informal setting. Sessions will be full of information and advice to help you move your writing forward."


Saturday, September 06, 2008

From a chain email: True love

It was a busy morning, about 8:30, when an elderly gentleman in his 80s, arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am.

I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him.

I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.

On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.

While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.

I inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's Disease. As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

I was surprised, and asked him, 'And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?'

He smiled as he patted my hand and said, 'She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is.'


Rainy night (Friday)

That was some rain tonight.

Cue Joni Mitchell - Rainy Night House.

Newsmusic Desk


River Wey at Weybridge, Surrey (1 pm, September 3, 2008)


Friday, September 05, 2008

Ramadan mubarak

The PM's Ramadan message - Gordon Brown (YouTube, 2008)

Beware the Kinnockian jinx

Biden plagiarised a speech of Kinnock's and bombed out last time. The big stadium folie de grandeur of Obama's conference speech was reminiscent of Kinnock's notorious Sheffield rally, where he blew a clear lead and lost an election, by flaunting his arrogance. However Obama's lead went up, so maybe he avoided seeming triumphalist. Why couldn't they have played it cooler though? Better to have had thousands outside unable to get in, than a Nuremberg rally/Kinnockian folly.

for I have seen the Kinnockian jinx, in a jar
(not really)
(where does that come from?)


Thursday, September 04, 2008

The fair she moves

Willesden Herald interview with Bertie Ahern

World Exclusive

Herald: Hello!

Bertie: Hello!

This "interview" took place on a street in North Dublin about midday on Saturday September 12th, 2008. Bertie, taller and solider than he looks on television, was wearing a colourful jacket and smiled very freely and broadly, as he walked south while I walked north.


Feargal Mooney

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Colonels Blimp

Prize letter*

All on a skidoo
Today Abkhazia,
Tomorrow Alaska,

Shane Schlepolski (12), Cricklewood

* 5 weeks plenary indulgences for the best letter each week to the Colonels Blimp

Monday, September 01, 2008

To sunlight and on walls

If you don't already know
why streets are like fresh-baked bread,
why old men play cards in the park,
on benches pulled together,
why a fallen tree waits for evening,

if you don't already know
the bandstand that enfolds a summer,
the cigarette that burns a journey,
silver rain that falls from the sun
to the ocean under a pier,

the heartbeat of concrete will never batter you,
the parchment of dried leaves will fall silent,
small birds will forget to sing,
and streams will not spring from stone.

Unless you pray to walls with light
and chant a hymn for morning traffic,
unless you shoulder up the clouds
and become the race of underground rivers,

you'll never see ascending to the sun
where no street was, a white wide street,
no row of houses will ever stand
transfigured into song,

and no train will bear you backwards dreaming
till you wake to some other voice,
other eyes, another
time, knowing

Stephen Moran

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Dublin view

View south from the Regency Hotel 2nd floor

Harry Lemon

Every little helps

"Billy was born weighing 2lb 2oz on April 19 and immediately put in an incubator - where he was kept warm inside a plastic bag. Mr Jones, 38, said: 'He was so tiny. He was in a little resealable sandwich bag to keep his temperature up. They told me that, for all the millions spent on the NICU, what's made the biggest difference to survival rates are Tesco resealable sandwich bags. 'You look along the incubators and they're all in them, these bags saying Tesco. It's incredible.'" ('Miracle baby' who grew outside the womb - Telegraph)


Come down from the mountains, the town fair is on

The short story competition is now open and you can read the rules and upload your entry here. Closing date December 19th, 2008.