Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: This and that

Wednesday August 08 2018

I don’t believe I am the only man to have been deranged by the heatwave in the manner I am about to describe, in fact I know that I am not, because I had one of those How-Very-True You’re-So-Right type conversations with GodDaughter2’s boyfriend, Only The Other Day, about exactly this matter.

I refer to the fact that I, and many other men, do not merely wear a jacket to fend off frigidity.  We also wear it to carry stuff.  It is our version of a handbag.  In my case: wallet, cheque book and paying in cheques book (so I was born before you were - live with it) (both these items serve another purpose besides handling the financial instrument relics of the previous century, which is to fill up the pocket containing my wallet and stop the wallet falling out (which would be a catastrophe)), pen, purse, Old Git free London transport pass, keys, handkerchiefs, mobile phone, spectacle case with reading spectacles, spectacle case with spare camera batteries and spare SD cards (the latter for if I forget to put my regular SD card back in the camera), Disprins, cough sweets, regular sweets, eye allergy spray, and no doubt several other things I can’t now remember.

Unlike some men, I also carry an actual bag around with me on my travels, containing: a folder with paper to take notes, a shopping bag for if I shop, a camera, a book, a small bottle of fruit flavoured anti-dehydration liquid, any food I have bought, any spare garments I might need for if it gets colder, an umbrella, and even sometimes a laptop computer, on those days when I am in a mobile laptop computing sort of mood (although lately I have tended not to be in such a mood (too heavy)).

But, transferring all the clobber described in paragraph two above into the bag, and into the midst of all the clobber described in paragraph three above, is a serious derangement, not least because the bag gets far too full.  For remember, what if, late at night, if the heatwave abates, I need the jacket?  I have to have the jacket in the bag, just in case, even though it is far too hot to wear it and in fact, throughout the heatwave, it remained so.  So, with everything now in an unfamiliar place, much of it buried under other bits of it, all the usual reflexes stop working.  Nothing is any longer where it usually is.  I start suffering from that frightful female syndrome of digging about inside the bag, frantically trying to find whatever it is.  Which may in fact be in one of my trouser pockets, or maybe even my shirt pocket, for goodness sake.  Oh God, where’s my wallet (which contains all sorts of priceless stuff which I dare not even itemise (see above))?!?!  Etc..

Today, the heatwave sort of ended, as in: the weather oscillated between pleasantly warm and somewhat warmer.  But unfortunately the London Underground didn’t get the email containing the link to the short-term weather forecast, and chose to remain full of the horribly hot air that it had been accumulating throughout the previous fortnight, or however long it’s been.

But the discomfort I suffered was the discomfort of wearing my jacket when it was rather hot.  That I can live with.

But worse, just like the London Underground, I too found myself suffering a systemic hangover from the previous period of high temperature hell.  Earlier this evening I was in a pub, and when my pubbing was done, I picked up my bag, and visited the toilet, prior to leaving.  Luckily, while there, I realised that I had left my jacket on the back of the seat that I had been sitting on.  I reclaimed it, seemingly unmolested by plunderers, except that … hell’s bells, my wallet wasn’t in it! It was, of course, in the bag, where I had recently been learning instead to put it.

It’ll be a few more days before I recover my usual calm and suave demeanour, when out and about.

Saturday June 16 2018

This morning, I had a strange dream.  What with attending a couple of recent song performances given by GodDaughter2, my subconscious somehow persuaded itself that I was also having to do some singing, in front of a similarly discerning audience.  But of course I had no idea what I was supposed to be singing.  Also, my singing is ridiculous, and it has been ever since my voice broke.  Nobody sane would gather into an audience to hear it.  Nevertheless, there I was, on a stage, waiting to perform, with three other actual singers, totally clueless.  So far so ordinary.  A classic unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmare.

At this point, however, a slightly more conscious layer of my subconscious deduced, in an actually quite relaxed manner, that this was an unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmare.  At which point, it told me to look the audience straight in their eyes, and I said words to the following effect: “This performance may seem like it’s going to be a dream for you, but actually, it’s really a nightmare.  My nightmare.  And I’m not having it.  I’m not going to do any performing, and I am not going to feel bad about this.  I’m out of here.” And I was.  I left the stage, and all those present just had to deal with it.

At this point it got strange.  Instead of me waking up, the dream carried right on.  The media decided to take an interest.  There were TV crews interviewing the other performers, the ones who had actually been doing some rehearsing.  What was that about?  Who was that bloke?  It was quite a drama.  As it would be, if a performer made a speech like the one my subconscious and I had just made.  I tried to hide behind a door in the room where all this media frenzy was unfolding, but the media spotted me and advanced towards me.  Only then did I wake up.

What did this mean?  What was my subconscious telling me?  The usual unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmare seems to say: rehearse better.  This revised version seemed to say: relax.  But relax about what, exactly?

They say that if you have a weird dream, then if you just write it down, as best you can, or, if you are the picture-drawing sort, if you draw yourself a picture, then whatever message your brain was trying to get noticed in another part of itself is from then on regarded as having been noticed, and the weird dream does not return.  What matters is not the accuracy and quality of what you write or draw.  Simply making the effort is enough.

It feels to me like this was something to do with getting old.  Getting old means that you just get less bothered about things generally, and unrehearsed performance anxiety nightmares in particular.  Time was when you worried about such things.  Now, you just bugger off out of there.  If others object, that’s their problem.

Also, if you think this is a bizarre blog posting, ... well, you know, ditto.

Sunday January 07 2018

One of the problems of getting old is that it becomes gradually harder to do more than one thing in a day.  This being why my daily postings here are often rather perfunctory.

This morning, for instance, I had a most enjoyable meeting with a friend, and then, the weather being so good, I went wandering about in Soho.  That’s two things there, right away.  Now, all I am capable of is rather incoherent rambling about nothing very much.

I did, while meandering about in the south of Oxford Street area, finally manage to track down the latest issue of the BBC Music (by which is meant classical music) magazine, which is getting harder to come by with every year that passes.  Another symptom of advancing years being that it gets harder to buy the things that you particularly like, as others who also like that thing die off.

But, good news: the BBC’s preferred best performance of the Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata was a rather obscure recording by the rather obscure pianist, Peter Serkin, who is the less famous son of the famous pianist Rudolf Serkin.  I have so many CDs that I often can’t be sure whether I own some particular CD or not, and so it was with this one.  But after some rootling around, I discovered that I do possess this CD.  I love it when that happens.

And yes, since you ask, I am influenced by critics.  If someone who knows the piece in question very well thinks that this or that performance is very, very good, then I know that I will at least want to hear this performance, even if I don’t end up sharing the critic’s high opinion, which often I do.  This recommendation means I will now listen to this CD again.

The other thing I did was take a close look at a camera that I have been tempted by, but will probably not be buying, although it was interesting.  This was in a shop called Park Cameras in Rathbone Place.

Inside Park Cameras Rathbone Place I also took this photo, with the camera that I already possess:

image

Good to encounter a new bridge of interest, even if it is only a miniature Lego version of an old bridge.  I have no idea why such a bridge was in Park Cameras Rathbone Place, but I wasn’t complaining.

I get the distinct impression that a golden age of bridge building arrived about thirty or forty years ago, but has now departed.  I just picture googled new bridge, and I mostly got bridges I have known about for quite a while.

I digress.

Sunday October 08 2017

Yes.  I ran it by Adriana plus her Plus One (Perry de H), at that feast I reported on yesterday, and it turns out that I’m not the only one who finds the phrase “self storage” …

image

… to be rather odd.  (That’s this.)

I know what self storage is.  It’s the name given to the process of ridding your self of some of the crap by which your self is currently surrounded and impeded, without actually chucking it away irrevocably.  In particular, when your self is in between locations, or when your self has moved from a big place to a smaller place, your stuff, or your excess stuff, needs to be stored somewhere.

But self storage, taken literally, sounds like you are parking your self in a warehouse and for the duration, your life will consist only of all the extraneous crap.

You become like a zombie or something.  I can understand people wanting to put their mere selves to one side while earning a living.  That might make a rather profitable business.  But while actually, you know, … trying to live … ?

Odd.

Thursday December 01 2016

I have spent yesterday and today indoors, tidying up, or at least trying to.  Infrastructural Overload is a terrible thing.  This posting is about this tidying.  You have been warned.  Spoiler alert.  You risk being seriously bored – angered even - by the triviality of it all.

The turning point was setting a date by which a serious amount of tidying needs to be done.  The date in question is December 30th, when there will be a post-Christmas party and a talk in the evening, in the place now being tidied.  December is a long month, in the sense that the last Friday of November was on the 25th, which was when I last entertained here in a space-hungry way.  So the last Friday of December is five weeks later, rather than your more typical four.  The key decision was not to attempt any entertaining before Christmas, which gives me a nice long time, and in particular that precious blank (for me) time around Christmas, to get stuck into all the shite that needs de-shiting.

The basic problem is a lot of piles of unprocessed paper.  We are talking about an enormous in-tray in a small dwelling, which is not a good combination.  Today, the piles of paper are now mostly in the living room, on top of big planks on top of sofas, and the processing has begun.

I already have a small chair-load of superfluous paper, destined for the bins, and have made several discoveries.

I have discovered two vital books of instructions that I had thought gone for ever, one for my washing machine and the other for a recording device.  Very gratifying.

And, I have discovered that some magazines wrap themselves in biodegradable plastic.  I found several such unopened magazines from several years back, and the wrapping has biodegraded.  I had to vacuum bits of it off my hands.  I’ve often wondered what biodegradation looks like.  Now I know, a bit more than I did.

I anticipate a sense of liberation, of spiritual renewal, once a serious amount of tidying has been done.  This may be a delusion, but if so it is a delusion that is already having consequences, in the form of me doing tidying up.

Wednesday July 06 2016

That being the name I have given to this photo, taken yesterday afternoon:

image

Pride of place in all the temporariness goes to Centre Point, currently having some kind of makeover.  But there are also cranes, crane shadows, flags, and all manner of urban thisness and thatness, including a big face on the back of a Boris bus, advertising Coca Cola.

Why the Union Jacks I wonder?  Was the idea that, following the vote for Remain that was obviously going to happen, there would always be a Britain?  Tourists, this place is still its good old British self?  Leavers, bad luck, this is your consolation prize?  Remaining doesn’t mean that Britain will be gobbled up by Europe?  (Even though that is the plan.) Seriously, I wonder what the thinking was there.

Whatever, it makes for a pretty photo, I think.  Also, good light.

Friday April 03 2015

My illness has taken the form of a “thing” that moves around my head.  At its worst, it impinged on my brain and nose and made me feel very bad, headache and bunged up nose.  Then it moved around in a circle, from above left eye to above right eye, to below right of head.  That gave me a malfunctioning throat, but stopped being a headache.  Today, it arrived back above the left eye, and moved over to above the right eye.  Again.  Result: headache and bunged up nose, all day.  Again.  Like it was last Sunday.  I had hoped it would make just the one visit to wherever it chose to go, and then stop.  No such luck.

So, not even a quota photo today.

Thursday January 29 2015

Number 11 of these:

image

The trick was to get really close.

One of David Thompson’s latest clutch of ephemera.  He just keeps them coming.

Tuesday October 14 2014

A few days ago I purchased a small loaf of sliced bread of my favourite sort, namely Hovis Original Wheatgerm.  And I found something rather strange about it:

image

Not all the slices were like this, but most of them were.

I’m guessing that what happened here was that part of the previous loaf inside whatever space this loaf was cooked in got left inside, and hence incorporated into the next loaf, my loaf.  And, it would appear, it got cooked twice, or at least rather more than the rest of the loaf, and before the rest of the loaf was inserted.  And then everything sliced and sold to a supermarket, and bought by me, just as if nothing odd had happened at all.

I happily ate the resulting hybrid loaf, which seemed fine, even if the darker bits were a bit drier.  This is not a complaint.  If Hovis want to send me more sliced bread, they are welcome, but that is not my purpose with this posting.  I’m just trying to entertain, with an oddity.  Because, odd, don’t you think?  Never seen that before.

On a slight tangent, I believe that I am becoming a better photographer with the passing of the years.  By this I do not mean that I am getting technically any cleverer, although mercifully my cameras are.  What I mean is that now, I realise that this is the kind of thing that needs to be photographed, before it is merely consumed.  A few years ago, I might have eaten this, and then only later realised that I would have liked a photo of it.

Just to emphasise that my improvement as a photographer still has some way to go, I vaguely recall trying not to get any shadows in this photo.  But, if I was so trying, I failed.  You can make out the shadow of my photoing finger, towards the right.  Apologies for that.  You get what you pay for here.

Sunday September 21 2014

Just to drive the point home that not all the photos of mine that I show here were taken several weeks or even months ago, here is yet another which I took (just like the previous two in the previous two postings) today:

image

My picture is somewhat cropped.  Her hair somewhat less so.

Thursday September 11 2014

Last night, at that birthday party I attended, I was asked all the usual questions about what I was doing.  Which is not a lot just now, what with my waiting for Godot problem.

Inevitably, in some of these cross-examinations, this blog came up, with me saying that I write here about whatever I feel like writing about, with very little thought for the interests of my readers.  Cats on Fridays, general trivia, etc.  I do Big Issues at Samizdata and trivia here.  Blah blah.

However, an American lady friend, whom I had not met in quite a while and whom I was very pleased to meet again, told me that she quite liked my trivia stuff, and that she even read my postings about cricket (this being the most recent one).  I thought that only I and Michael Jennings and Darren the Surrey Member were at all interested in those.  It seems not.

I’m guessing that this interest on her part is partly actual interest, but also partly that a principle is at stake here.  Which is: that the trivia that other people are interested in, but not you, is not actually an entirely trivial matter.  Life is not only Big Issues.  It is the small pleasures that give colour and texture and individuality to life.  Watever matters, to someone, matters.  Your opinion about what the Big Issues are should not be allowed to drive a tank or a government bureaucracy over my trivial pleasures.

So, her reading about the trivial pleasures of others is her asserting this Big Issue to herself, as well as maybe learning something about other little parts of the world, like the world of cricket (actually quite big of course, as I daresay are the worlds of embroidery and gardening and croquet and rap music and all the other little things in life that I don’t personally care about, other than to believe that tanks or government bureaucracies should not be driven over them).

Me being me, my way of asserting the importance of trivia, in general, to people, in general, is me writing about the trivia that interests me.

Her way of asserting the importance of trivia to people generally is her reading about the trivia that others write about.  But we are both making the same point.

I don’t want to say that I have entirely described why my American lady friend likes to read what I write about cricket.  I merely speculate that the above speculations might be a quite small part of why she does this.

(She, like me, probably also thinks that thinking about trivia can often lead to interesting angles on Big Issues, of the sort that merely looking straight at the Big Issues might cause you to miss.  Pointless fun and truly original insight are often delightfully close neighbours, I think.  But that’s a tangent for another time, hence this paragraph being in brackets.)

Monday July 21 2014

I was laden with bags of shopping, but I still thought this worth photoing, late this afternoon:

image

Which do you think is better, a good photo of an okay thing, or an okay photo of a good thing?  This, I think, is a photo of the latter sort.  Digital cameras come into their own in taking such photos, because, although lacking that last ounce of phototechnicality, they are easy to have with you and easy to use, even when you are basically busy with other things.

What I like is how totally different each of the nine shapes are, like they are nine different pictograms or something.  Only the one bottom right rather lets the side down.

Also, the car wasn’t helping.  Had that not been there, I would probably have done it from right in front, and it might have ended up being a good photo of a good thing.

Wednesday December 18 2013

I am now reading Bourgeois Dignity by Deirdre McCloskey, on the recommendation of Anton Howes.  It is very clear that Howes has been strongly influenced by McCloskey’s voluminous writings.

But, until a short while ago, I did not know this:

Deirdre McCloskey is a well-known economist, with a reputation for originality or, depending on how you like to see it, being a maverick renegade. She is a neoclassical Chicago economic historian by training. But she has been asking about the rhetorical underpinnings of economics for some time. She also, in a story well-known in the profession, used to be a he, Donald McCloskey, but has transitioned to being a woman.

Blog and learn.

Thursday May 31 2012

For much of yesterday, the world economy teetered on the edge of chaos, on account of this blog being out of action.  In the USA, people from all walks of life complained that, without this blog, sneering at Brits and celebrating the defeat of Britain in the revolutionary war of 1776 or whenever became too difficult, without this blog as an explanation for their otherwise incoherent resentment.

Australians wanting to find out who won the Ashes in 2011 had to look elsewhere for news.

And all over Europe, policy makers, seeking light relief from their self-imposed task of ensuring that the EU goes out with a huge bang rather than with an orderly and rational recognition of what ought really to be done, looked to BrianMicklethwaitDotCom for solace.  But it was not there.

How can we be expected to lead the European economy over a cliff in the proper manner, exclaimed Big European Cheeses, if we can’t divert ourselves every now and again with pictures of London bridges, and of new London towers, like the big spiky one and the one with the three holes in the top?  After a hard hour fretting about Spaniards who are about to riot and then die of starvation unless we print some more money and give it to ourselves, we need to be able to contemplate roof clutter, stuff about something called “Samizdata”, and photos of London tourists taking photos, another Big European Cheese added. 

Fortunately, BMDC came back on line yesterday afternoon, and the happiness of the world and the orderly progress of Europe towards self-inflicted ruin was reestablished in the nick of time.

Tuesday May 31 2011

Tidying up, with me, doesn’t happen because it’s that time of the month or the week or the year, or because the place just generally needs tidying up.  It happens because I am looking for some particular thing.  It is there, under the chaotic topsoil.  But where?  Let the archaeology begin.

Rather than just scatter the topsoil up into the air randomly, which even I know will massively increase the chaos, I instead find myself sorting the topsoil out, into crude categories of different topsoils.  By topsoil, I mean basically: paper.  Somewhere under all the paper is that particular piece of paper, or clutch of paper, that I seek.  Twice in the last fortnight I’ve had a day like this.  The earlier tidying frenzy was to find the book of words for an electrical gadget, which was duly found.  Today’s frenzy was to find an ancient financial document, which if found will yield money.  Today as before, many other lost and forgotten objects of value also surfaced.  Today has been more complicated, and must continue tomorrow.  The financial document has yet to materialise.

I managed to chuck out quite a bit of topsoil.  Well, not yet, but the chuckable out topsoil is already in quite a big pile of its own.  But to make room for that, I had to take out previously accumulated piles of topsoil, to make way for the new topsoil that would then have to go also.  And to take out the old topsoil I needed bags, bags which had been doing other stuff, and had never been unloaded.  So that had to be done too.  And so the task elaborated, before I do this, I will have to do this, and in order to do that, I will first have to do this.  And so on.  But progress was made.