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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photo alteration

1. Original

2. After "auto colour"

3. After "auto contrast"

Is the first or the second the most genuine? Not sure. Certainly the sky looked nothing like the third image.


Monday, March 30, 2009

This is not bankruptcy, it's robbery

Barack Obama backs 'bankruptcy' to save US car industry

"'What I am talking about is using our existing legal structure as a tool that, with the backing of the US government, can make it easier for General Motors and Chrysler to quickly clear away old debts that are weighing them down so they can get back on their feet and on to a path to success; a tool that we can use, even as workers are staying on the job building cars that are being sold.'" (Guardian)

They can't just tell the creditors you're not getting paid but we're carrying on in business - this is kindergarten logic. If GM is bankrupt then GM must be sold off to pay the creditors. Otherwise it's daylight robbery. Don't imagine the creditors are just a load of rich people who won't feel any pain - they're probably pension funds, insurance companies etc. Nobody is going to lend any money when they know it's all going to be written off later.

This bailing out is collapsing under the weight of its own silliness. They should have nationalised the banks properly, to ensure that any money put in was still in the right hands, i.e. the public's. If they'd applied logic instead of panic things would not be at this farcical, painful and disastrous stage. You can't turn straw into gold - no amount of moving the goalposts is going to turn worthless "assets" into anything other than damage that we have sustained.

I've said all along it's no use pouring every bit of water you've got into a leaky bucket. As long as they haven't nationalised the banks or kept everything under control with a specially constituted state commercial agency we will continue to haemorrhage money. At the same time if we don't erect protective tariffs our industries will be wiped out completely. They have already been allowed to be savaged by unscrupulous competitors who know nothing of human rights or fair working conditions. Everything from bonded child labour to prison slave labour to industrial dormitories with company stores have been allowed to compete unfairly with our better geared native industries in western Europe.

I still remember when my Dad's clothing factory was sunk with the loss of about 20 jobs by cheap imports from Taiwan. What did Taiwan ever do for us?


Response by Feargal Mooney (Gravitas constituency candidate designate): "The only solution that is going to work is to adopt what Gravitas has been proposing since the millennium, a world amnesty for all personal debt, backdated to 2000 and repeated every 100 years. Who would not vote for this now that banks are all getting trillions and the government is printing money? Why should Joe Public be left out?" Vote Gravitas to own your own house and car now. If you haven't got a house and car, we'll order them up for you to boost the building and car industries. (Of course it will be an electric car running on electricity generated from biocharcoal, which is made out of what politicians talk.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How restorers ruined the last portrait of Shakespeare

News, Art - The Independent

"The so-called 'restoration' could now go down in art history as one of the biggest blunders on record."

I put it to you that this looks like it could be a portrait of the great man, not just on the basis of intuition and the at once observant and reflective look. Am I imagining it?, but no, I'm sure there is a similarity between this face and the face of Bob Dylan, perhaps one of the few people alive who could be compared to Shakespeare for verbal inventiveness and facility. Do they share a set of genes? A small question in some ways, but there it is...

Noël Knowall

Good news

Scientists film HIV spreading for first time:

"Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how HIV spreads through the human body after filming the process for the first time ever." (Telegraph)


London G20 sub-committee on Quantitive Easing

From Luis Bunuel's The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

A preparatory meeting for Gordon Brown's London G20 special sub-committee on Quantitive Easing. Will President Obimma attend, I wonder. Gordon mentioned him in his speech to Congress. (Who is President Obimma?, by the way, and how strange that he should have a name so like the US president's.) Let's hope Alkie Ada doesn't show up, you know what a boor she is.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Yellow week


"Yellow" by Coldplay. Parlophone on YouTube (official)

Weathermusic Desk

Listen: Leonard Cohen concert in London (complete)

Exclusive First Listen: Leonard Cohen : NPR Music

"Now 72 years old, Leonard Cohen has spent much of the past decade in solitude, exploring his own spirituality and his place in an ever-changing world. But in July of 2008, he took the stage at London's 02 Arena and gave a stunning performance, as part of his first tour in 15 years."

This is one of the best things ever online. It also makes me want to buy the album, so it's a winning ploy. "Thank you friends. We're so privileged to be able to gather on occasions like this, when so much of the world is plunged into darkness and chaos." [Applause] "So...Ring the bells that still can ring."


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Light house


Party lights. 19 March 2009. Sphagnum

Google Streetview can keep the day, I'll take the night and the half light (with a nod to Mr Yeats).


The Spotted Dog: Demolition in progress?


Demolition sign on the Spotted Dog, 20 March 2009. Sphagnum

Don't cry but, "Willesden Green has a long history with the area being recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as 'Wellesdone'. By the 14th Century a small settlement had formed around a woodland clearing, which later became Willesden Green. By the middle of the 18th century the village had grown and had its own pub, ‘The Spotted Dog’." (Ref: Willesden Green Conservation Area). It used to be said that a taxi driver might not know where Willesden High Road was but could take you to The Spotted Dog.

This evening


Vernal equinox, March 20, 6:30 pm. Sphagnum

The first day of spring

Where no bikes were before


Brent, March 2009. Sphagnum

Signs like this have just appeared on the path all around the park behind the sports centre. Why invite bikes where few are ever seen, other than small children's ones? Some jobsworth looked at a trike and thought, "Let's order some signage." Do they have to mark everything in sight? This was a lovely tree lined park where you would search hard to find any sign at all, and now it has these industrial blue and white intrusions at intervals on the path all around.


Spotted in the Willesden bookshop


Copies of New Short Stories 3 on display beside the cashier's desk today in the Willesden bookshop, Willesden library centre, High Road, NW10

Google "Streetview" Willesden

View Larger Map

This is where it lands if you just search for "Willesden NW10". It's the roundabout on the junction of Pound Lane and Willesden High Road, beside the Willesden bus garage. There are absolutely awesome 360° views. You can "walk around" and see Herald House in great detail and now there are worries here about our priceless collection of Frank Bacon's and Jack Pollock's.

Harry Lemon, Travel Correspondent

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shoot the old women and children

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Israel troops admit Gaza abuses

"An Israeli military college has printed damning soldiers' accounts of the killing of civilians and vandalism during recent operations in Gaza. One account tells of a sniper killing a mother and children at close range whom troops had told to leave their home. ... In another cited case, a commander ordered troops to kill an elderly woman walking on a road, even though she was easily identifiable and clearly not a threat." (BBC)

"You know what," (Ollie to Stan), "we're going to have to investigate!" (Flicks tie out.) "Why is that?" (Stan, with perplexed look, scratching head.) "Doh! Because we don't know what we did! Can't you even see that?!" (Stan looks lost.)


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hundreds died because of NHS management incompetence

Health secretary apologises over damning report on Mid Staffordshire NHS trust | Society | "Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected at Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust over three years, the report said."

There is stupidity and there is laziness and then there is just downright arrogance and indifference, combined with professional incompetence. And it's all under NEW LABOUR, not old Labour, not the Tories. Anyone with eyes can see that Gordon Brown and everyone he surrounds himself with are sleepy-headed, bureaucratic time servers, pen pushers and lead swingers. They all have the same square, dull, miserly, insensate look of the petty-minded and unaware. In the words of the redoubtable Bob Geldof, "People are dying NOW!" When will we ever get some leaders who have an ounce of believability and an iota of competence?!?! Sorry for the rant, but this is very close to home for many, if not all of us - and you're only lucky if it isn't your turn yet to fall into their slow-motion, mindless death-grip.


Boris's odes

Here's a really Right-wing idea: learn poetry

"...My teachers probably spent more time in Japanese POW camps than they did at teacher-training college, and yet they had one utensil of instruction for which I will always be grateful. They made us learn stuff, and spout it out, and we blushed if we got it wrong; and the result is that I am a kind of slightly wonky poetry jukebox. There must be thousands of texts in there: snatches, fragments and large numbers of whole poems. I could do you a dozen Shakespeare sonnets, the whole of Lycidas (186 lines of the thing) and the first 100 lines of the Iliad in Greek. ... As anyone who loves poetry will testify, when you learn a good poem, you make a good friend. ... What is the point of education, what is the point of civilisation, what is the point of our benighted money-grubbing species and what is the point of Conservatism if we don't instruct our children in the chief glories of their inheritance?" (Telegraph)

Typically amusing faux rant by the Mayor of London.

Views and reviews

"Inspiring night at Costa Coffee for the Short Story Night, with writers Jo Lloyd, Jill Widner, and Margot Taylor. Wise words from Rana Dasgupta who this year replaced Zadie Smith as judge of the Willesden Herald prize" (Lane7)

"I’ve just finished reading Jo Lloyd’s Work, and it is superb - a poignant and sensitive study of loneliness, bond-building and alienation within the workplace, that is subtly understated, and all the more powerful for that." (Jenny Barden)

"Another highlight is Amy by Nick Holdstock, who very ably and wryly depicts the sometimes quite contrary nature of the male psyche. The collections ends on a very high note with Ben Cheetham’s The Hate Club, a great evocation of how cruel hormone-ridden teens can be, and the pain that such actions can cause later in life." (Authortrek)

In the news on the prestigious BBC National Short Story Award site (The Short Story)


Dedicated website: New Short Stories

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And finally...

Cheerio ducky: "Attempts to breed a rare species of duck to avoid extinction in the UK have backfired after the only two remaining males fell for each other." (Telegraph)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The great "Kingdom"

75-year-old widow to be flogged (Independent)

The great Kingdom, the great ally, the Mr Moneybags, the holy hypocrites! Austerity now, boycott all rotten countries like Saudi Arabia and China! Better poverty and self-sufficiency than the dishonour of bowing to these jumped-up guttersnipes and tyrants.


Results of the short story competition 2009

The following were shortlisted for the Willesden Herald short story prize 2009:

"Propitiation" by Jenny Barden
"The Imperfect Roundness of Things" by Claudia Boers
"The Hate Club" by Ben Cheetham
"The Travellers" by Carys Davies
"Ante-Purgatory" by Carol Farrelly
"Amy" by Nick Holdstock
"Work" by Jo Lloyd
"Ebb Tide" by Margot Taylor
"Mina and Fina and Lotte Wattimena" by Jill Widner
"Tokyo Chocolate" by Morowa Yejidé

And the winning short story for 2009, as chosen by Rana Dasgupta, is "Work" by Jo Lloyd.

Equal Runners Up:
"The Hate Club" by Ben Cheetham

"Mina and Fina and Lotte Wattimena" by Jill Widner

The results were announced by Rana Dasgupta at a special Pulp Net Short Story Café event in Costa Coffee in Piccadilly, last night. (Pictures).

The newly available copies of "New Short Stories 3" - yes, hot off the presses - were all sold. Harper Collins were on hand as well and copies of Rana's new novel "Solo" also sold out.

Jill Widner read from "Mina and Fina and Lotte Wattimena", which will become part of her novel in progress. Margot Taylor also read the start and end of "Ebb Tide". Thanks to shortlisted authors Jenny Barden, Claudia Boers and everyone who came to the event - a good turnout and a pleasant evening all round.

The anthology is now available. To read the first paragraph from each story and for details of how to get the book, please visit the dedicated New Short Stories website Some of the stories will also be featured in a forthcoming edition of Pulp Net.


Judge's Report

"Work" is a characteristically understated title for a story that concerns itself with the very ordinary, and manages to find there philosophy, politics, and great vistas of melancholy feeling. I admire it intensely: Jo Lloyd is somehow able to write everyday paragraphs that lift off into flourishes of quiet wisdom - a wisdom whose warmth and sensitivity is in poignant contrast to the cold world she describes.

Like all the best short stories, this is a capacious work of literature, and it confronts the reader with big questions. High-flown captions come to mind: it is about the degradations of capitalism, the nature of contemporary friendship, the meaning of work, of risk and of loyalty - but the story itself prohibits such ungainly representation. Jo has found for it a voice of memorable clarity and simplicity, and it speaks perfectly, beautifully, for itself.

Rana Dasgupta


About the authors

Jenny Barden trained as an artist, then a lawyer, and for several years worked for one of the leading firms of commercial solicitors in the City of London. Chance research into a painting triggered a passion for writing. Journeys in South and Central America then led to ideas for a novel set in the New World during the Age of Discovery. That novel is now close to completion, and Propitiation derives from one of the chapters in an early draft. Jenny is represented by Jonathan Pegg of the Jonathan Pegg Literary Agency. For more about her writing visit:

Claudia Boers is originally from Johannesburg and now lives in London. She left behind a career in fashion to focus on writing in 2007. She's been published in Your Messages (a collection of flash fiction) and was commended in the Ilkley Short Story Competition 2008. Claudia's currently working on her first collection of short stories and is fascinated by the imperfect roundness of life.

Ben Cheetham lives and writes in Sheffield. His short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in The London Magazine, Dream Catcher, Staple, Transmission, Momaya Annual Review 2008, Swill, Hoi Polloi and various other magazines.

Carys Davies's short stories have won prizes in national and international competitions, including the Bridport, Asham, Orange/Harpers & Queen and Fish. They have been published in magazines and anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her debut collection of short stories Some New Ambush (Salt, 2007) was one of ten books longlisted for the 2008 Wales Book of the Year Prize and was also a Finalist in the 2008 Calvino Prize in the US. She lives in Lancaster with her husband and four children.

Carol Farrelly is currently a student of Glasgow University’s MLitt in Creative Writing. She has lived in Italy, London, Oxford and Brighton. Italy and London are the places she still misses. She has had several short stories published in magazines such as Litro and Random Acts of Writing.

Nick Holdstock’s work has appeared in Edinburgh Review, Stand, and The Southern Review. He recently edited the Stolen Stories anthology.

Jo Lloyd grew up in Wales and now lives in Oxford. Her stories have been longlisted for the Bridport and Asham prizes. She is not [sic] working on a novel.

Margot Taylor is an ex lollipop lady who lives with her husband and two teenagers in Somerset, UK. Her spare time is divided between her passions for boating, running on the nearby Quantock Hills, and writing short stories.

Jill Widner was the recipient of a 2007 Artist Trust/ Washington State Arts Commission fellowship; she was a resident at Yaddo in 2007 and 2008; and she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “Mina and Fina and Lotte Wattimena” is an excerpt from her novel in progress, The Smell of Sulphur, which fictionalizes her experience growing up in Indonesia in the 1960s. Other excerpts have been published or are forthcoming in North American Review, Hobart (online), and Kyoto Journal. Her fiction has also appeared recently in Memoir (and), 971 Menu, and Hitotoki (New York). She lives in Yakima, Washington.

Morowa Yejidé is a native of Washington, D.C. She was educated at Kalamazoo College, where she received her degree in International Relations, and graduated from an international exchange program at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Her short stories have appeared in the Istanbul Literary Review, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, The Taj Mahal Review, and Underground Voices, and others. Her stories often focus on the layers of relationships and the inner landscapes of her characters’ minds. Tokyo Chocolate is a tapestry of her own experiences and impressions. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three sons.

Views and reviews

Competition home page

Update a year later: 2010 results

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ground zero

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU

"Israeli 'facts on the ground' - including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions - increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," the report says. (World News | The Guardian)

Facts are always on the ground, that's where they fall. Strewn there are broken walls, carcasses of the expelled, hands far away on their own, eyes that blink for thirty seconds beside new walls that have no corners, dying of invested weaponry, smashed by national contentment, burst by tribal righteousness, torn into strips by proprietorial zeal, ever-changing colourscape of blood and shit and roasted flesh:- These are some of the facts that keep changing on the ground.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Let's get bookfaced

If you can put up with Facebook's on again, off again privacy two-step gavotte (after all they can only promulgate whatever baloney you feed them!) please sign up for some divarsion and high jinks at one of these:
* Monday 9 March | Pulp Net | Short Story Café | 7.30pm

Rana Dasgupta will be at the Pulp Net Short Story Café, to announce the winner of the Willesden Herald Short Story Prize. And to give a reading.

Rana’s first book, Tokyo Cancelled, a thirteen-part story cycle, was published in 2005 and translated into nine languages. His novel, Solo, from which he will be reading later in the eveining, is out in March.

"A novel of exceptional, astonishing strangeness, 'Solo' confirms Rana Dasgupta as the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation." Salman Rushdie

Source/More: Pulp Net

Sunday, High Road

Just happened on a nice effect at Walm Lane.

Almost a year on, the Spotted Dog is boarded-up and derelict. This is the signwriting with the prices for the closing week (still up).*


* I was accosted by a very bleary-eyed person while taking this picture, who wanted to know why I was taking pictures, was I the police? I said it was for my blog (I didn't tell her it was for the newspaper, ahem) and she said she didn't like people taking pictures of where she lived. There are some flats nearby. She kept trying to stop me, so eventually I said, "It's a free country, I can take pictures of whatever I like, mind your own business." I regretted that afterwards but only because I thought I might take a bullet or a knife to the heart for saying it. Anyway, when I got back to the newsroom (ahem) I took a look at what I'd got and lo and behold (as they say) something strange in the corner of one of them, which I hadn't noticed at the time, but as it shows a person I won't post it. I don't include people (or try not to) unless they have given permission or are indistinguishable.