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Category archive: Radio

Monday April 27 2015

I find writing about music very difficult, because … why bother?  I like what I like and you like what you like.  Either this is a music blog, in which case we can all agree about how right I am to like the music which I like (which you like also), or it is not.  And, it is not.

Nevertheless, here is a blog posting which is sort of about music, except that really it is about how the mind works, which this blog is often about.

On Saturday morning, I was woken by my alarm clock to make sure that I started the recorder on my radio to record CD Review, which I duly did, very dozily.  I then, dozily, heard the announcer telling me that I was about to listen to Beethoven’s First Symphony, first movement, and I duly listened.

Beethoven’s First Symphony has a very particular start which is, if you know the piece, instantly recognisable.  However, I have not known it, in the sense of hearing it and knowing with certainty that this was Beethoven’s First Symphony, until last Saturday morning.  I could recognise the tune and hum and conduct along with it, but I was unable to tell you which piece it was with complete confidence, the way I could and can with all Beethoven symphonies from Third to Ninth.  I might well have guessed it right, but it would still have been a guess.  But this time, I am pretty sure that hearing that very recognisable opening of Beethoven’s First together with being told immediately before it began that this was what it was may actually have stuck in my head, as a twinned pair of facts.

This was because I was half awake, but not fully awake, I think.  I was, I surmise, in a highly “suggestible” state.  I think that’s the word the psychologists use.

The reason that all of this matters to me is that, as I get older, I find that getting to “know” a piece of music, as in: going from knowing it as a piece of music to knowing it as a piece of music and also being able to identify it, going from knowing it to knowing what it is, is becoming a rather rare experience.  There is lots of music that I know in the sense of being able to hum along with it and of knowing approximately what is about to happen next, but as the decades roll by, I still can’t identify these pieces.  The pieces I got to know well when I was young are like a fixed catalogue of pieces I know and can identify, rather than something that is expanding steadily.  The catalogue is only expanding very slowly.

You may say: But merely knowing or not knowing the mere label of something is rather a superficial matter.  Well yes, that may be.  But I don’t think knowing the label of a piece of music prevents me from getting to know it more in all the deeper and more meaningful senses.  Rather the reverse.  Knowing what the music “is” frees my mind to concentrate on all of the more interesting things about what the music “is”, as opposed to the superficiality of what its mere label is.

Monday February 23 2015

This coming Friday I have another of my Last Friday of the Month meetings at my home in London SW1.  This coming Friday is, after all, the last Friday of the month, so the logic is inexorable.  Every Friday (even if the last Friday of, say, December 2014, happened to be Boxing Day, as it was) there is a Last Friday of the Month meeting at my home.

I have been having email problems, in the form of people using gmail suddenly not receiving my emails, so even if you thought you were on my list but hear nothing via email, be assured that this meeting will happen.  Try emailing me (which should work) and then telling your spam filter not to reject my reply, which you will have to do despite it being a particular individual reply.  I know, crazy.  I hope to write more about this problem in a posting at Samizdata, Real Soon Now.

Or, if you intend coming to this particular meeting, you could leave a comment below, and I will respond saying message received and look forward to greeting you.

Anyway, this coming Friday (Feb 27), Pete Comley will be talking about inflation.  He has recently published a book on the subject, which you can learn about in this posting at Comley’s website.  And you can hear what Comley sounds like and a little of how he thinks by listening to this short interview with Simon Rose of Share Radio.


The thing about Comley is that he takes a long-term - very long-term - view of inflation.  He began a recent talk I attended by discussing inflation at the time of the Roman Empire.

And in the long-term, there are not one but two major influences on inflation.  There is, of course, the supply of money, by the powers that be who have always insisted upon supplying money.  And when they make too many coins, too many bank notes or create too much bank credit, the price of regular stuff in shops goes creeping, or rocketing, up.  But there is also the demand for that regular stuff.  In particular, human population fluctuates.  At some moments in history, population shoots up.  At other times it falls, or at the very least the rate at which it increases falls.  Just now, in country after country, the birthrate is falling, and that has consequences for inflation.

Before you say it, I’ll say if for you.  Many simply define inflation as the first of these two processes but not the second.  Inflation is what money issuers do to the money supply.  A price rise caused by rising demand is simply not inflation.  It is a mere price rise.  Fair enough.  It certainly makes sense to distinguish these two processes from each other, however hard it may be for consumers to do this when both are happening to them.  And if you do that by restricting the definition of inflation in this way, then be aware that Pete Comley’s talk will be about inflation thus defined and about price rises sparked by rising demand, and for that matter about price stability caused by static demand.  (He says, by the way, that we might be about to enjoy just such a period of price stability.  And although you can never be sure about such things, better handling of the recent financial crisis, and we might have got there already.)

There is also the question of what causes money issuers to inflate, in the second and more restricted sense of inflation.  They seem to do this more at certain historical junctures than at others.  Inflation, restrictively defined, does not just cause bad economic experiences; it is itself caused, more at some times than at others.

All very interesting, or so I think.  Libertarians like me tend to be quite well informed about recent monetary history and about the evils of fiat currencies, the Fed, the Bank of England, and so on and so forth.  We tend to know a lot less about similar episodes in the more distant past to what he have recently experienced.  In general, we are more interested in the fluctuating supply of money than in the way that population fluctuations influence prices.

Pete Comley has a small but particular soft spot for me, on account of me having been the one who drew his attention to this book about the long-term history of prices (The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer), which seems to have had quite a big influence on his latest book, which is called Inflation Matters.  It certainly does.

Thursday November 27 2014

Do you remember The Navy Lark?  Used to be on the radio.  In it, I seem to recall Leslie Phillips, playing a young (that already dates it) sub-lieutenant, who used, from time to time, following a marine mishap, to say:

Oh clang.

But, I can find no mention of this particular catchphrase in all the various Navy Lark sites, so maybe I invented it, and am remembering only how Leslie Phillips would have said this, had he ever done so.

Anway: Oh clang.  Someone just dropped a bear bottle on that glass floor they installed only a fortnight ago at the top of Tower Bridge, and shattered the glass.

I did not see that coming.  I thought glass for that type of thing was now strong enough to resist a falling small car totally unscathed, let alone a mere beer bottle.  I thought that expensive glass like this only now shatters in movies.  In real life, I reckoned until I read this, you now bounce off it, unless it is extremely ancient, as does a beer bottle.  Apparently not.  (Did the bottle break, I wonder?)

It appears that this breakage was, as it were, deliberate, in the sense that the beer bottle broke only the top ("sacrificial") layer of five different layers of glass:

The stunning attraction, which offers visitors a unique, if slightly terrifying view of the road-bridge and River Thames, 138 feet below, was shattered when a member of the catering staff working at the venue dropped an empty bottle while carrying a tray.

The glass floor, which was only unveiled on Nov 10, cracked and then shattered, leaving Tower Bridge bosses with no choice but to cover and close the section of the walkway affected.

Fortunately the design of the walkway, which is made up of five layers of glass in each pane, meant engineers could repair the glass by simply replacing the top layer, rather than the entire thing.

This news first broke, ho ho, on Twitter.

Reminder to self: Must visit this visitor attraction, just to find out what my very zoomy camera makes of it, from below.

Saturday November 01 2014

During a discussion on Radio 3’s Music Matters at lunchtime today, about whether knowledge of classical music is necessary for the enjoyment of classical music, noted baritone singer Sir Thomas Allen mentioned that Luciano Pavarotti could not read music.  During recordings, said Allen, someone used to stand behind Pavarotti and quietly hum his notes for him, to make sure he got them right.

However, when Pavarotti himself was challenged about this, he denied it:

In an interview in 2005 with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC, Pavarotti rejected the allegation that he could not read music, although acknowledging he sometimes had difficulty following orchestral parts.

I’m guessing that what is at stake here is the difference between being able to read music after a fashion, and being able to read it fluently and with utter confidence that one is getting it absolutely right every time.  Sort of like the difference between having to spell out lots of the rather harder words, and just reading.

When I played the flute at school (until I gave it up and just became a classical fan) I had, by the sound of it, even greater difficulty reading music than Pavarotti did.  But even so, this makes me feel much better.

Allen also said that Mirella Freni (a soprano about as noted as Allen himself) was the same.

Monday August 18 2014

Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease).  This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again.  Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:


This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.

PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here.  That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.

I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all.  Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?

It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude.  It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by.  It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it.  And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.

To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist.  “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.

Wednesday July 30 2014

Nothing from me here today, but something at Samizdata (which makes a change), in the form of a remarkable song lyric from the 1920s by Cole Porter.  Pure libertarianism.  They maybe did not have the word back then (I don’t know), but they certainly had the thing itself:

Live and let live, and remember this line:
Your business is your business,
And my business is mine.


Thursday July 17 2014

The are two photos which I took last Monday.  The one with the bright blue sky, me looking up, was taken in Wigmore Street.  The one looking down, was taken from the ME Hotel Radio Rooftop Bar.

They are photos not so much of roof clutter, as of roofs, roof in all their elaborately designed glory.  But, you can spot the late twentieth century incursions:

image image

The aesthetic impact of radio and television aerials does not seem to be much discussed in the architectural world.  It could be that it has, and I merely haven’t noticed, but I don’t think that’s it.

Here is what I think is going on inside the heads of architectural aestheticians, on this subject.  The deal we will make with you mindless philistines is: you can have your damn aerials, because we know that if you are not allowed, by us, to have your damn aerials, you will hunt us down and burn us at the stake.  But, we refuse to talk about them.  We will not incorporate them into our aesthetic theories of how things look, and should look.  We will not see them.

Which is how we got from the above scenario, where everything on the roof is elaborately designed, but the first few aerials have crept into the pictures, but have not been seen by the architects and their aesethetic guides, to this:


Yet still, they don’t see it and they don’t talk about it.

Really, really weird.

I’ve been pondering roof clutter for a while now, but the more I ponder it, the more weird the phenomenon is.

What this reminds me of is a distinction that my sociology teachers at Essex University all those years ago made much of, that between the sacred and the profane.  The sacred stuff here is the regular “architecture”, the walls, the windows, the roofs, the interiors, and so on.  All of that is sacred, and is accordingly obsessed over, every tiny square inch of it, every subtle colour change, just as priests obsess about every word in a prayer.

But those aerials are profane.  They don’t register.  They aren’t architecture, any more than a tracksuit worn by a impoverished member of the congregation in a church is a sacred vestment, the details of which must be argued about by bishops and theologians, or the sales pitch being done over the phone on Monday morning (by someone who had been devoutly praying on Sunday) is itself a prayer.  That sales pitch is profane.  Forget about it.  Don’t even think about it.

Those aerials, in among the sacredness of all those designed chimneys and roofs and little towers, are profane.  And hence invisible.  Aerials are designed, by aerial designers, to make sense of radio waves.  But they are not designed to be looked at.  They are a pure case of form following function.  Architects ought to love them, if they believed their prayers.  But they don’t because what is there for architects to add?  Nothing.  The job has all been done, by profane aerial designers.

Well, I don’t know.  I’m thinking as I go along here, but writing it anyway.  Which is all part of why I have this blog.  At this blog, I am allowed to be wrong.  This is a thinking allowed zone, you might say, a place where the thinking does not have to be done before the blogging begins.  This is, you might say, a profane blog.

Wednesday March 26 2014

On Monday last I attended a BBC Radio 4 event, at which Evan Davis interviewed Deirdre McCloskey:

image image

Yes that is the same screen, and it remained the same colour throughout.  In “reality” I mean.  If you were there, which I was.

But digital cameras, when set on “automatic” as mine always is, have minds of their own when it comes to colour.  One picture happens to have a lot of a certain colour in it, and it changes the overall colour of everything to compensate.  For instance, when you take indoor pictures but there is outdoor sky to be seen, then even if in reality the sky is deepest grey, the camera turns the sky deepest blue, and the indoor bits orange.  Likewise, when the sky is blue, but if you are outdoors, the camera, for no reason, is liable to fill a clear blue sky with pollution and turn it a sort of slate colour.  What was happening here is that these two pictures are both cropped.  But the left one was only cropped a bit, while the left one was cropped a lot.  And the stuff that got cropped out of the left one meant that the screen was no longer green.  It was blue.

As to what Deidre McCloskey actually said, well the thing I was most intrigued by was that she was entirely cool about being asked about how she used to be Donald McCloskey.  In which connection, don’t you just love how that circumstance is alluded to in this:


That’s an article reproduced at her website.  So, is that her handwriting?  Could well be.

I doubt the medical side of the switch was as easy to do as that.

The libertarian propaganda side of this is that McCloskey is a character, rather than just a boring bod in a suit.  The usual evasive sneers against pro-capitalists just won’t work on her.  And I even think it helps that (maybe because of those medical dramas - don’t know) her voice is a strange hybrid of male and female, often sounding a bit like electrical feedback.  She also has a slight but definite stutter.

The reason I feel entitled to mention all this is that it clearly does not bother her, or if it does she has learned very well to stop it bothering her, and indeed to make a communicational virtue of it all.  I guess she figures if you are saying interesting stuff, it really doesn’t matter if your voice sounds a bit funny and if people sometimes have to wait a second or two before hearing the next bit of it.  In fact it probably even helps, because it gets everyone listening, proactively as it were, guessing what is coming instead of just hearing it.

See also: Hawking.

Tuesday November 26 2013

Referred to by a Radio 3 announcer, this afternoon:

If Music is a Place - then Jazz is the City, Folk is the Wilderness, Rock is the Road, Classical is a Temple.

I heard it, googled it, and was able to copy-and-paste it from here.

Monday August 12 2013

I’m watching and listening to the England v Australia test match at Chester-le-Street, and the first hour of the fourth day has been a cracker.  Stumps flying, a bouncer fended into the gully, and a flurry of boundaries from England as they try to set Australia a decent target.  As of now, England are 277 ahead.

There has been much discussion from the TMS commentators about how lots of wickets have fallen in the morning, this morning being no exception.  But, that being the case, tomorrow morning could be very important, which they have not been discussing.  If England can just stick around for another few overs, Australia won’t be able to chase down all these runs today, and will have to bat tomorrow morning.  That could be decisive.  The prospect of them having to bat tomorrow morning may cause them to hurry today, or at least be in two minds about whether they should hurry.

All that said, this series has an air of insignificance about it.  This is because there is an imbalance built into these two series, in England and then this winter in Australia.  Whoever wins in England has to do it again in Australia to keep the bragging rights for a decent length of time.  Whoever wins in Australia gets those bragging rights.  If England win in England but Australia then win in Australia, Australia end up the winners.

The only big deal about this series, following that Lord’s slaughter, was: could England make it 5-0 and avenge that earlier 5-0 thrashing that Flintoff’s team got handed in Australia a few years back?  Bragging rights from a 5-0 thrashing last for ever.  That’s the rule.  But England couldn’t win at Old Trafford, in fact only the weather stopped England losing.  So, no permanent bragging rights.

Bresnan out for a crucial 45, England 285 ahead with just one wicket left.  But hello.  A dropped catch in the deep.  Steve Smith.  He doesn’t usually drop anything.

Anderson now prodding away defensively.  It’s like England have worked out what I said about tomorrow morning even if the commentators haven’t twigged that.  That flurry of fours was great.  But dot balls are now very good too.  But, another four from Swann!  He now has 22.  And another!  A real one day four, where he stepped back to square leg and bashed it through the covers.  It’s the kind of game where every ball feels like a tiny change of balance in the match.  “That dropped chance has already cost nine runs.” Make that thirteen because there goes another four.  England 298 ahead.  Anderson caught behind!  Spin!  Good for Swann!  Australia need 299.  “A morning of fluctuating fortunes.” I’ll say.

Finally, they’re talking about the tomorrow morning effect, and the fact that Australia will be pushed to get all these runs without England having a second new ball.  Mornings have brought wickets in this game.  So have new balls.  What we need now is a couple of Aussie wickets in the twenty minutes between now and lunch.  There’s every chance of that.

No.  Australia 11-0 at lunch.

LATER: According to Simon Hughes, Keith Miller slept with Princess Margaret.

Monday February 11 2013

One benefit of meeting up with fellow libertarians is that together we sort out the world.  But there is also the matter of sorting out the ongoing activities of the libertarian movement itself.

When I finally got to the Rose and Crown, I did some exploratory chit-chatting with Simon Gibbs, about such things as future writings for Libertarian Home by me (I promise nothing but hope to do something) and about how he does his videos.  I would like to get good at doing videos, but don’t know where to start.  Except now I do.  Simon has agreed to teach me what he does.  He uses Adobe Premier Elements.  So, that’s what I have in mind to be using.  I also showed him my camera, the reviews of which when I first bought it said it would be good at video.  Will that do?  Yes, he said.

In exchange I was able to offer Simon some tips about how to do radio in general and the BBC’s Moral Maze in particular, which he was nearly on last week, and will surely be on Real Soon Now.

I daresay similar conversations were going on elsewhere in the room, where other libertarian doings were likewise being furthered.

I also got to talk with Richard Carey, who is to be my next Last Friday speaker but one.  Which means that I now have my next three Last Fridays sorted.  February 22: Michael Jennings.  (We now – at last - have Samizdata author archives!) March 29: Richard Carey.  April 26: Rob Fisher.  Michael will be telling us some of the things he has learned about the globe and its ways of organising itself from his various globe trottings.  Rob will be talking about open source software.  And now it is pretty much settled that Richard will talk about the relationship between libertarianism and Austrian Economics.  Excellent. Email me (see “contact” top left here) if you want to know more about any of these events.

Oddly enough, the one thing I didn’t think to do at this gathering was take any photos.  I was similarly forgetful on the Last Friday of January.

Neither omission was at all clever.  Photos create an aura of significance, a penumbra of meaningfulness, a force field of where-it’s-at-ness.  Not much.  A bit.  We can all do our bit, and bits like that are easily done by me, except that on these two nights, they weren’t.

And after all that I went home, watched some TV, and then went to bed.

Tuesday January 01 2013

Indeed.  My own happy new year was delayed by illness.  During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this).  But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering.  I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache.  But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.

So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.

I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio.  Lovely, albeit mad.  (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing.  The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work.  I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.

Saturday October 01 2011

Well here I am watching England v Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, and so far it’s been almost all Scotland, maybe because it’s raining and they love that.  Only after about half an hour have England started to do anything.  Parks has landed two tricky penalties into the wind, with the second one being adjudicated with the help of television.  A first, apparently.  And until just now, Wilkinson was on 0 and 3.  0 and 3.  Wilkinson.  It’s now 1 and 4, with Scotland leading 6-3, but if England can’t rely on Wilkinson, then as all their enemies (i.e. the rest of the world) say, what do they have?

The scrum seems to be a perpetual bore, with all this “touch” pause “pause” pause “engage” nonsense from the ref, which (a) seems to go on for ever, and which (b) still falls to pieces.  However, this time, it is only the England scrum that is falling to pieces.

Drop goal from Dan Parks, and at half time it’s England 3 Scotland 9.  Where was Parks and his drop goaling when Scotland were playing Argentina?  Can England pull themselves together and win this?  My understanding is that if they don’t win, they’ll be in the strong, otherwise Northern Hemisphere half of the draw, and after losing to Scotland won’t frighten anyone there, except themselves.

If Scotland win, but without the bonus point from winning by eight points (or whatever it is) or more, they won’t go through at all.  So at least England might take Scotland with them into nowhere land.

They’re showing the England scrum giving away penalties.  Not pretty.  It’s all looking very much like Rugby is Only A Game.

There’s just been a great tackle by Tui … langi?  Followed by some England attacking down the left.  Better.  But Scotland are doing well at the line-out.  England back on the attack.  If they can keep hold of the ball they look a threat.

Another scrum, more grief for England.

When the weather is wet, rugby is more of a lottery.  Here in England we are having a first burst of truly hot (as well as cloudless) weather of the entire year so far.  Hot weather is left wing.  Have you noticed that?

England have just won a Scotland scrum!  England attack.  England knock-on.  Too many England errors.  But, another England turn over at the scrum.  Better.  Wilkinson misses a drop goal.  He’s the weak link.  I’ll say it again.  Wilkinson is the weak link.  Is this his last England game?  Nevertheless, England as a whole look stronger.  If they could just score a try.  Not this time, England give it away and Scotland attack.  Scotland nearly score!  Scotland penalty, it’s good.  Scotland need to win by “8 points or more” and now lead by 9.

Until today I was happy with England’s progress, and may yet be, if they can win this.  Hey, Wilkinson puts over a drop goal!  Scotland back needing more points.  As I was saying, I was happy with England.  Everyone moaned about their early wins, but at least they were wins.  Argentina are hellishly difficult to beat, and England beat them.

Lots of displacement activity from me, rearranging CDs in CD shelves.  Another penalty success from Wilkinson!  England look threatening now.  England 9 Scotland 12.  If England can just scramble a win here, I’ll be back defending them.

What happens if it ends in a draw?

Another Wilkinson penalty attempt.  Just short.

The England scrum seems to be working better now.  The reason I’m unclear about the details of this game is that another of my displacement activities just now is listening to CD Review, where they’re comparing all the Bruckner 8s. 

Penalty to England.  If this goes over, it becomes 12 all, with minutes left.  If it stays like that, then, according to my calculations, England will win the group.  But, England go to the corner.

Ashton scores on the right!  England ahead!  “You can only feel sympathy for Scotland!” Well, I can think of a few other feelings I can feel.  Hah!!!  Toby Flood gave the scoring pass, a big miss-out looper.  He seems to have made a difference.

No swallow diving by Ashton this time.  Flood nails the conversion.  Flood is looking very good.  16-12.  That conversion means Scotland have to score a try, and, well, until now, Scotland haven’t done tries.  We’re past the 80 minutes mark, the next stoppage does it.  England win!

I have lots of recordings of Bruckner 8, but none of three the BBC has just recommended.  Bugger.

So, it’s official.  England are now the Germany of the rugby World Cup.  They look rubbish in early games.  But then the prettier teams knock each other out, and hey presto, a month later England are still in it.  That’s what happened last time.  I hope that happens again.

Apparently Tonga beat France.  Hah!!  (All the pool results so far are to be found here.) Looks like if Tonga could only have beaten Canada also, that would have meant France being out of it.  I think.  Antoine Clarke (pronounced Claire for the duration) won’t be happy.

Monday September 19 2011

The cricket County Championship ended on Thursday, and I am now suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, having this year got completely sucked into it.  Surrey, my preferred county (on account of me having been born and raised in it and it having won the County Championship every year from when I was four to when I was ten) got into a promotion battle.  To win promotion to Division One they had (a) to win their last four games, and (b) to get enough bonus points (which you get for batting and bowling well in the first inningses) to get them ahead of the opposition.  Winning one County Championship game is hard.  Winning four is a considerable achievement.  They did win four, which at first looked totally impossible.  They did get just enough bonus points.  And they got promoted.  I tracked all this, with growing fascination and growing admiration, because I wanted to, and because, thanks to the www and local radio, I could.

It was a three horse race, from which two horses would be promoted, between Middlesex, Northants and Surrey, the three of them in that order when the final round of games began, last Monday morning.  If all three won their final games (which they all did) then Middlesex, way out in front, would be Division Two champs, which they were.  The interesting action concerned Northants and Surrey, the former being ahead of the latter by one point when the final round of games began.  Surrey had one more win than Northants, so if Surrey got one more bonus point than Northants in the final games, with both winning, they’d have equal points totals and Surrey would would be promoted.

The other thing you need to know about Division Two of the County Championship is that this year they have been using a kind of cricket ball which has two important properties.  It is very hard to bat against when it is new.  And it is very easy to bat against when it is old.  What this means is that batsmen who can merely survive when the ball is new are at least as valuable as batsmen who can flog it around to all parts when the ball is old.

On Monday morning, Surrey, batting first against Derbyshire, lost two very early wickets, captain Hamilton-Brown, and Ramprakash.  (Ramps has finally, it would seem, run out of puff.  He has had a bad season, for the first time in well over a decade.  But part of his problem is that he bats at number three and frequently goes into bat when that ball they are now using is new.) Things looked very bad.  But Steve Davies (badly dropped early on) and Zander de Bruyn (pronounced de Brain) then batted until lunch, taking the score past 100, in other words they not only survived, they actually flourished.  They both got out soon after lunch, and Tom Maynard then made a century, others also chipping in with important support.  But that very early batting by Davies and de Bruyn was crucial.  Thanks to Surrey batting aggressively, they were 400 for 8 by the end of day one, which got them maximum batting bonus points.  But if it hadn’t been for Davies and de Bruyn on that first morning, they wouldn’t have got anywhere near to 400 (the exact number of runs you have to get to get maximum batting points), because by the time the ball had got old and easy to hit everywhere, the way Maynard did hit it everywhere, Surrey would have been more like 200 all out.  Even if they had then contrived to win the game, their bonus points would not have been sufficient.

Northants, meanwhile, also batted well enough to go on and win their game, but they were all out in their first innings, on the Tuesday morning, for 343.  They also needed to get to 400, given that Surrey already had.  But they didn’t.  Ergo, they lost out on promotion by two points out of 227.

I love that I knew all this (scroll down here for all the rules about how many points you get for what) at the time, and consequently knew exactly what was going on, and why the batting of Davies and de Bruyn was so crucial, even as it was happening.  Cricinfo and BBC Radio London (aka Mark Church) were my two main sources, but in truth Mark Church, busy describing a cricket match, doesn’t always get all the subtleties of things like bonus points exactly right.  For that, you really need to be able to read something.

Mark Church is an amiably rambling old codger on the radio, but an intensely scripted, driven, humourless young professional on Surrey TV.  Odd.  Something to do with doing radio for six hours on end each time, but telly for more like six minutes each time.  Surrey TV’s picture and camera coverage is now appalling, but give it a few years ...

Davies and de Bruyn weren’t the only ones doing vital stuff for Surrey.  I pick them out merely because what they did was not quite as obvious as other other stuff that Surrey also did (or even as obvious as other things that Davies and de Bruyn did), like win four games in a row, which was, as I say, an amazing achievement.  Much more obvious was the contribution of Pragyan Ojha, the Indian spinner that Surrey signed for their last few games.  The thing about him was that he was not only able to bowl well.  He was able to bowl well when the ball was old and when nobody else could bowl well.  So he kept opposing sides down to much lower totals.

In general, Surrey’s bowling just gets better and better, which tells me that their new coach, Adams, is very good at coaching indeed.  Surrey not only triumphed themselves this year.  They also supplied England with two of their best new regular bowlers, Tremlett and Dernbach, supplying England with regular bowlers meaning, basically, saying goodbye to them.  Linley and Meaker, the next two Surrey quick bowlers in the queue, have done very well.  Hence, along with Ojha, all those wins.  You can’t win proper games of cricket without getting people out.

As for Surrey’s batting, I even suspect that Ramps may have done them a favour by not scoring centuries two games out of every three.  That meant the other batters couldn’t say, oh well, Ramps will bat properly, we don’t have to.  They had to.  They did.

Talking of proper cricket, two days after getting promoted, Surrey also won themselves an improper cricket title, the forty overs each way slog final against Somerset having been at Lord’s on Saturday.  Ojha didn’t play, but Surrey did play numerous other spinners, who tied Somerset into all kinds of knots.  In slogfests, the slower it comes at you, the less it just bounces off your bat to the boundary.  You have to really hit slow deliveries, and that can get you out.  Surrey made a bit of a meal of slogging off the runs, and rain complicated things, but they never really looked like not winning.

So, Surrey promoted.  Surrey win a cup competition. The other London county also promoted.

Plus, England beat India 8-0.  4-0 in the tests, once in the twenty over slog, and 3-0 in the fifty over slog series.  Surrey have a bowling line-up India could only dream of.  (Why Odja didn’t do any bowling for India this summer is very mysterious to a Surrey fan like me, although I presume English 2nd Div batters are far worse at playing spin than sub-continentals in test matches, so they didn’t realise how good he’d be until he proved it for Surrey, too late.)

Cricket lovely cricket.

Actually, the funniest single thing in the entire cricket season was the extraordinary public attack launched by the Chairman of Yorkshire CC on his own players, Yorkshire having this year been relegated to Division Two.  (So Surrey won’t play Yorkshire next season either.) In the same season that Lancashire won the Championship, which won’t have improved his mood any.  (No more Roses matches in the Championship.) Usually when sportsmen do badly these days, those in charge of them are impeccably polite about them in public, taking “full responsibility” for their own errors, blah blah, and keeping any complaints about their underlings strictly private.  Look at Indian captain Dhoni’s relentless public politeness, every time he was interviewed after yet another Indian debacle.  But t’ Yorkshire Chairman went ballistic.

Friday February 11 2011

Last night I did a Samizdata posting about a BBC Radio 4 programme on the psychology of the global warming debate.  Then, since one of his commenters had mentioned in passing that this programme was coming up, and what with him having long specialised in the subject, I thought maybe Bishop Hill might be willing to give my Samizdata posting a mention.  So I emailed him with the link, on the off chance.  And sure enough, there it is, generously quoted, in the latest (as I write this) Bishop Hill posting.  I have just emailed him thank you.

It says a little something about how well Bishop Hill has been doing that now it is a Samizdata contributor hoping that Bishop Hill will give a plug to a Samizdata posting.  I can just about remember when we were plugging him, and he was emailing us his thankyous.  Those days are now long gone.  Another straw in that wind: five comments so far on the Samizdata piece, one by me.  On the Bishop Hill posting, already, seemingly in no time: eleven.

When trying to think of an example of significant bloggers to mention in my previous posting, I found myself giving equal billing to Guido Fawkes ... and to Bishop Hill.  And I think that’s now about right.  I don’t know the numbers, but, in terms of impact and influence in their distinct arenas, I think they are very roughly on a par.  And that’s absolutely not to do down Guido.  It’s to do up the Bishop.