Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
- I Love You Will U Marry Me
- I’m back
- A snip at £7,499.99
- The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
- A vintage photo
- To Tottenham (6): The Spurs Shop
- Supporting England in the Big Bash League
- A new stadium for Chelsea
- You wait for years and then two come along at once
- Mosaic diversion
- On the value of speaker meetings - to the speaker
- 6k has a drone
- Quota coloured lights outside the Royal Festival Hall
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Category archive: Radio
The party I hosted on New Year’s Eve was rather exclusive. Nobody was actually forbidden entry. But I was very late with the invites, and because I feared that so few would be attending, I actually told people that if they wanted a proper, noisy, standing room only do, rather than what actually happened, they ought to steer clear, and that meant that even fewer people came. But it also took the pressure right off me, because whoever did come had been duly warned. The fireworks that those still present at midnight looked at and photoed from my roof (see below) were a bit out of the ordinary, but I had not seen that coming and so did not make that a selling point. Next time round, if there is a next time round.
But, I did have some fun conversations. And in particular one that has just resulted in this posting at Samizdata, about Shipping Containers. And about other Things. Once again, I at first wrote all of this for here, but then transferred two thirds of it to there.
I’m listening to chitchat on Radio Three about the origins of Radio Three’s previous and original manifestation, the Third Programme.
They’ve just mentioned an article by John Croft called Composition is not research. I quickly found it on the www, and I want to hang on to it.
There are, by and large, two kinds of composers in academia today – those who labour under the delusion that they are doing a kind of ‘research’, and those who recognise the absurdity of this idea, but who continue to supervise PhD students, make funding applications, and document their activities as if it were true. Composing, of course, might on occasion depend on research – how do I make an orchestra sound like a bell? How do I electronically sustain a note from an instrument so that it doesn’t sound mechanical? What is the best way to notate microtones or complex rhythms so that they can be accurately played? But none of these is actually the composition of music. Rameau’s harmonic theory was research, and it surely influenced his music (and music in general), but the Traité de l’harmonie is not a musical composition. The development of the pianoforte involved research and influenced music in profound ways, but it was not composing.
I have not read this essay yet. But the point of this posting is not to say what I think of it, merely to make sure that I do read it.
I have long been interested in the rather misleading idea of musical “progress”. This seems like it will be closely related to that idea. Another related idea: music is not science, and new music does not replace old music. But, I shall see.
One of the reasons I have such a pathologically enormous CD collection is that I fear the power that music holds over me. I fear being in the position of wanting to hear something, but not being able to.
This morning, on Radio 3, they played a piece of piano music which I liked a lot, both the piece itself and the playing, but did not recognise. I thought it was perhaps Mozart, played by Brendel, maybe. It turned out to be Haydn, played by Pletnev. I just dug around on the www, and here is Pletnev playing that same piece. Whether that’s the exact same performance I don’t know, but it is playing right now and it sounds pretty good to me. The piece is snappily entitled: “Variations in F minor”. Until now, this was not a piece I had paid any attention to.
But I hit the age of musical addiction combined with the money to feed the habit long before there was any www. For me, having music at my command doesn’t mean knowing about a link. It means possessing a shiny plastic circle, in a square plastic case. So, as soon as I had set the radio to record CD Review, as is my Saturday morning habit, I searched through my CD collection (subsection: Haydn), for that Pletnev performance. No show. But Amazon informed me that there is a Pletnev Haydn double album with Haydn piano concertos on disc one and Haydn solo piano music on disc two. I looked again, in the Haydn subsection (sub-subsection: piano concertos). Success. I possess the exact same performance thad was played on the radion this morning. So now, this music doesn’t control me. I control it.
The question of who is in charge of music and music-making is actually a big deal, historically. Beethoven’s career, and then later Wagner’s career, were all about Beethoven, and Wagner, being in charge of their music and of their music-making, rather than their patrons or their audiences. You can tell this from just listening to their music. Haydn, on the other hand, predated that era, and was dependent upon aristocratic patronage, and this shows in his music. He would probably not enjoy reading this blog posting, by this annoying and undeserving control freak from out of the future. But he would not have made a fuss. Or such is my understanding of his character.
Or, he might have rejoiced that he could have made recordings of his music, in circumstances completely within his control, and that I could then listen to them in circumstances completely within my control. For me, this is the best of both worlds, and it would be nice to think that it might have suited him also.
As I write, this game is boiling up nicely, following an England collapse at the start of their run chase. And then, in the midst of all the drama, there was this:
Ilanks: “Isn’t there a Ben Foakes being discussed as a potential keeper for England. If he’s selected, England could have Stokes, Woakes and Foakes in the line-up!” Yes indeed. And wouldn’t that be A Thing?
A Thing indeed. And if Chris Woakes was instead Ben Woakes, it would be Ben Stokes, Ben Woakes and Ben Foakes. An even thingier Thing.
Today Surrey had one of their best days of the season so far, given what a crappy season they’ve had so far. At the start of today, in their game against Notts at the Oval, Notts were 82-2, in reply to Surrey’s 323, following a very rainy day two. But this morning, Notts rolled over for only another hundred, and Surrey (who threw away a similar big first innings advantage in an earlier game) then built a big lead. If Surrey can do tomorrow what they did this morning, they could get their first win of the season.
I am becoming more and more of a Real Cricket Supporter, in the following sense: that my county doing well matters more to me than my country doing well. I would not have swapped Surrey’s strong position for a better England position earlier this evening, against Sri Lanka. I would still prefer a Surrey win tomorrow to an England win this evening. Although, now I think about it, an England loss would be easily corrected by a win next time, but a Surrey win would be far huger for Surrey. It could, as they say, kick start their season. So maybe I just prefer a huge win to a nice win. That could be it.
Ben Foakes, by the way, is the Surrey wicketkeeper. I knew you’d be excited. Plus, I heard indefatigable Surrey radio commentator Mark Church say yesterday that the best spin bowler in England just now, if England want a good one for their forthcoming tour of India, is Surrey’s veteran captain Gareth Batty. Batty’s bowling today: 11.4 overs, 3 maidens, 23 runs, 4 wickets. I know, I know, it’s almost too much excitement to take, in just one paragraph of one blog posting. You’d best have a little lie down.
That guy was photoed last Sunday, watching day one of the Surrey Notts game. I really should, every now and again, visit the Oval and support Surrey in person, having paid some money. It looks like I should just about be able to squeeze in.
LATER: Well. I just nipped out to Sainsburys for a loaf of my favourite sort of bread, and while there I consulted Cricinfo on my mobile, one of the few things that my mobile (as controlled by me) knows how to do non-contemptibly. (Don’t get me started on phone calls.) It revealed that England needed seven runs to win with one ball to go. So, that, I assumed, was that. But when I got home, I learned that Plunkett had hit the last ball for six, and it was a tie! As you will already know, if you followed the first of the above two Cricinfo links. Fan electronic bleeping noise tastic.
A DAY LATER: Well, well. Yesterday morning, Notts went from two down to all out, for a further hundred runs. This afternoon they went from two down to all out, for less than fifty, and Surrey got their first Championship Division One win of the season. (Follow the second link above for the details.) Finally. This time, it was the Surrey spinner whom England are likely to take to India (because he has a big future (unlike Batty)), Zafar Ansari, who did the damage. 11.3 overs, 3 maidens, 36 runs, 6 wickets. Notts lost their last eight wickets for thirty eight, and crucially, went from 119-2 to 124-6, courtesy entirely of Ansari. Ansari can also bat. Moeen Ali look out, he’s coming for you. Ansari would already be an England player, had he not bust his
finger thumb at the end of last season.
LATER: Cricinfo agrees.
To you, yes, I hope that you had one, but actually what I’m saying is: I did.
England came belting back against Sri Lanka at Lords. After sampling the London weather last night, I had a feeling that might happen. It was not bright and sunny, more overcast and sweaty. It felt like swing bowler weather, which made SL’s reply yesterday afternoon (to England’s 416) of 162-1 rather strange. Dropped catches apparently. Well, this morning, order was restored and SL are now 218-6. Woakes, luckless yesterday, got a wicket with his first ball. England now look likely winners of that series 3-0. The longer the series goes on, and the more the Lankans get acclimatised (following seriously inadequate practising games), the more it counts beating them. The first game, where SL collapsed twice, meant nothing, I reckon. I’ve been following the score here.
Deep thanks to Michael Vaughan, who mentioned on one of the bits of cricket commentary I listened to that England were also playing Australia. At rugby. Aus 28 Eng 39. Must have been some game, and according to the BBC live updates, it was.
And before all that, I even managed a quick (they’re often the best) Samizdata posting, about something odd I heard on the radio, about the EU.
Here is one of the funner pictures I took while out and about last night, this one taken at the Parliament end of Whitehall:
Great reflections in her sunglasses, right? On the left, as we look, the two devices she is holding, and on the right, you can just see a tiny Big Ben. Is that red thing she is holding a charger?
Plus an elephant.
The onward march of mobile phones into photography continues apace.
I haven’t always been blogging here as early as I’d like to in recent days, but today, I did it.
If you had as good a morning as I did, lucky you.
As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old. Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.
I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket. This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket. Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.
Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.
When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel. Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting. Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket. I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades. The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life. But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.
Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do. And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still. So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now. On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night. As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains. Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.
I know the feeling. One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo. I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst. I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.
A bit of a meander, I’m afraid. But don’t mind me. You’d best be going now. I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.
Given that I am not actually seeing any visuals on a screen, sleeping through the decisive passage of play of the latest test match in South Africa only made it more dramatic.
There I was, making sure I was awake and able to start the recording of Record (as they have now gone back to calling it (it had been CD)) Review, and then getting up for a piss and a cool down before getting back to bed again for a bit of a lie in, by which time England were all out 323, with a first innings lead of 10. Before dozing off, I learned that Sinopoli’s Cavalleria Rusticana was the winning Cavalleria Rusticana in a strong field, and then I surfaced again and was informed by my other bedside radio that South Africa had lost no wickets in reply and were ahead at lunch, and then I dozed off again, and then got up properly ... to learn from my computer that South Africa were 44-5, oh no make that 45-6, correction 46-7. Game over.
That pic is the last one of these.
A lot of cricket photos these days, including most of this lot, seem to be, not of cricketers doing great things, but of cricketers celebrating having just done them. The pictures of Moeen Ali’s broken bat are also fun, but again, what you really want to see is the moment when it broke. The above photo is a refreshing exception. It shows Broad actually taking the final wicket of the South African innings, with a diving caught and bowled.
One of the pictures in this.
Australia’s first innings, in this game, has got off to a shaky start:
. 4b W 2 4 W | . W . 4 1nb . . | . . . W . 4lb | . . . 1 1 . | W
Broad has four wickets. Wood has only one, and was responsible for that humiliatingly wicketless fourth over. Extras is doing the best for Australia.
England are clearly missing Jimmy Anderson. If he had been bowling first up instead of Wood, Australia could have been in serious trouble.
Australia, at the start of the seventh over, now 27-6. Clarke out to Broad, who now has five, with just nineteen balls. Before that, yet another wicketless over from Wood.
To be a bit more serious, this is the kind of blog posting I do for myself, to put alongside postings like this one, because goodness knows, there’ll be plenty of other people writing about this. File under: my heart, warming the cockles of. I missed the first two wickets on the radio, because I was having a quick piss. Happy day.
But here, as my Aussie friend Michael Jennings likes to say, ‘s the thing. When Australia smash England, they do it five nil. When England smash Australia, which is what looks to be happening now, it’s usually something more like three one. Have we ever beaten them five nil? Ever?
Meanwhile, more consolation for England fans like me. Australia now 33-7. Nevill bowled Finn. But, as has just been pointed out by the radio commentators, in his previous over, Broad, like Wood before him, just bowled an entire over without taking a wicket.
More than the usual number of cock-ups while posting this, I’m afraid, and I expect there’ll need to be further cleaning up. Happy day. So far.
LATER: One of those crazy taken-in-a-pub-at-a-crazy-angle shots of a big pub screen, showing the carnage inflicted upon Australia on Day One of Trent Bridge 2015:
On the right, Sky TV’s Ian Ward, I think. On the left, Broad, I know. 8-15. 8-15.
Australia 1st Innings: 60.
Playing? Yes. It’s like they think test match cricket is some sort of mere game.
Cricket, says Cricinfo’s George Dobell, is no longer like this:
A few years ago - 2004 if memory serves - an elderly spectator settled down to watch a day of cricket at Horsham before the 11am start of play and promptly died. It was not until 9pm that anyone noticed. Such was the character of the crowd, and the cricket, that one more silent, motionless man in a chair hardly stood out.
He’s right. The current England side is full of one-day cricketers. And when they tried to beef up their top order for their latest test match, all they could think of to do was to sack one of the top order grafters (Ballance) and bring in yet another one-day batsman, a one-day batsman (Bairstow) who has done well in county championship cricket this year, so in he came. Nobody will be surprised if they sack another grafter (Lyth), and I would not be surprised if another one-day belter (Hales? Roy?) came into the team to replace him, because one-day belters is all that there are to pick.
After all, if batting like Kevin Pietersen is what all the best batsmen do best these days, why try to find old-school grafters in the Boycott manner, if no such people exist of the necessary class? (By the way, a basic reason why there is no clamour for Pietersen to return to the England team is that he now has no rarity value. Bell, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, all bat the way Pietersen does. So does Bairstow.)
One day cricket also rewards those who can bat, in a twist-or-bust sort of way, and who can bowl in a similar fashion. This doubles their chances of making an impact in a one-day game. They get to place two bets instead of just the one. England now have two such, Stokes and Ali. Plus, Broad can bat after a fashion, and Root can bowl after a fashion. Which means that England now bat, in a one-day sort of way, right down to number eight, where Ali now operates, and they now have five regular bowlers, because two of them are now Stokes and Ali.
Australia have the same feel about them. Mitchell Marsh is supposed to be a batter and a bowler. Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous slogger. They too are inclined to try to hit their way out of trouble, David Warner style, rather than to graft their way out of it, the way they used to in the days of people like Bill Lawry, Australia’s Boycott (i.e. the guy Boycott was England’s answer to), whom I remember from my childhood. Lawry grafted always, whatever the situation was. Now, Warner slogs, whatever the situation is.
And now, all wicket-keepers can bat up a storm, ever since Gilchrist created that template, and actually, before that. I remember am England chap called Parks, who could bat better than he could keep. Now everyone picks the wicket-keeper who bats best, and they then give him extra tuition with a wicket-keeping coach.
The most memorable old-school test match I can remember was this one. Six hundred played six hundred, and that was it.
For me, a turning point was Kevin Pietersen’s innings on the final day of the final test of the 2005 Ashes series, at the Oval. England were 126-5, with Warne threatening to finish them off and leave Australia needing 150 to win and with plenty of time for them to do just that, and level the series and go home with the Ashes. So, the one surviving front-line England batsman, Pietersen, had a match to save. There were two ways for him to do it. He could try to bat for a long time and make no runs. Or, instead, he could try to slog lots of runs and thereby get England too far ahead, which is what he actually did. Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood batted for about an hour and got next to nothing, which was also useful, but nobody except me remembers that. Giles was spared having to bowl, but batted very capably instead. I remember at the time how the commentators said, after Pietersen had just hit another six, that this was a strange way to save a match, but save it he did, and rather quickly, because England were suddenly way beyond Australia’s reach.
The most one-day thing of all about the current England v Australia contest is the way that these supposedly five-day games have all so far finished early, with one, one and then two entire days to spare. At one point that most recent game looked like it might end with three days to spare.
Also very one-day is that all three games have been won, by whoever happened to win them, by large margins. One team just happens to slog or bowl its way into a dominant position. The other team tries to slog quick runs or take quick wickets to get itself back into the game, and, as teams doing this usually do, they fail, and the dominant-from-the-start-to-the-finish winner wins by a mile.
England crushed Australia in the first game. But then, after they were crushed even more crushingly in the second game, everyone said, oh, England will now go back to grafting. But no. They didn’t. They couldn’t. They didn’t have the players to do that, even if they had wanted to. And they won the third game by eight wickets, and only right at the end was Boycott a happy commentator, because the Australian tail in the third innings, and then the England top order in the final innings, both did a bit of “old fashioned” Boycott-type batting, or as close to that as modern batters can now manage. This was why the match lasted a whopping three days, instead of a mere two.
It’s true! Three of weeks ago, I was scratching about for a cricket cat connection, and all the time this cricket cat connection has been out there, and I never knew, until I followed a tweet at Cricinfo! And there it was! Philip Clive Roderick Tufnell (nickname: “The Cat”, or so somebody claims), former Middlesex and England spin bowler, now TMS commentator, painter, has climbed aboard the catwagon! Does he actually like cats? Is he merely hoping to get internet hits that are the envy of artists who prefer non-feline subjects? Who knows? Who cares?
I think people are sometimes surprised that art is my thing. I got an O level in art at school (my only one – I was too busy playing cricket!) and my Dad was a silversmith, so there’s a history of creativity in my family. I even worked with my Dad for a while when I was turning professional, and I loved it.
I’m not a landscape water-colourist or anything – you won’t bump into me and my easel on a country walk! Instead, I love to work in abstract art and with different techniques. My studio is full of spray-paint cans, because I really like the effects I can create.
You can see where I’m getting all my exclamation marks!
I love that the cat is a smoker!
Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen? Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights? I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.
The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward. Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync. Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person. Many sportsmen feel the same. By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone. The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early. Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.
Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people. But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me. This is it.
Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short. Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.
Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances. The match was called off.
I learned about this in an odd way. Cricinfo was doing basic commentary. Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened. No frills. No explanations. And then, the commentary just stopped. What was going on? A complicated run out. Rain? But they usually say if it is raining. Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.
Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits. Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names. Surrey is their county. At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club). So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen. But now that seems unlikely:
One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.
So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die? What do I know?
Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.
More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV. I know - how does that work? - time travel. The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America. So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm. He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him. He says:
“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”
Old joke? Maybe so, but first time I heard it.
I had no idea how Secretariat would end. But I know the end now. Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since. Even I know that’s a lot of lengths. I did not see that coming.
LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries. Henriques: seriously broken jaw. Nobody died or is going to.
LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity. Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan. Such are the downs and ups of sport.
Preview – England begin latest rebuild, announced the Cricinfo front page, betting on this latest one being a flop. But then what happens?
This. England batted first and this is what the Cricinfo guy said after their innings had finished:
5.45pm, tea Well that is extraordinary. Two scintillating hundreds, first from Joe Root but then usurped by Jos Buttler. Eoin Morgan and Adil Rashid playing their parts too in big partnerships, and all after losing a wicket first ball of the innings! Just some of the records here: England’s first ODI score of over 400, the first score over 400 in an ODI in England, the most sixes in an innings from England, the world record seventh-wicket stand in an ODI. Few others I’m sure. But England have played a blinder here and if New Zealand can get anywhere close to chasing it, we’re in for an outrageous evening. See you in 25 mins…
The last over of the England innings went like this: 1 W W 6 1nb 6 1. Both the sixes were hit by England’s number ten, Plunkett, in an innings consisting of those last four balls there after those two Ws. This took England well past 400 just when it looked like they might not get to 400 after all, on account of Buttler and then Rashid (they of the record seventh-wicket stand) getting out near the end.
Jason Roy getting himself out to the first ball of the match was by no means at all the worst one-day innings you’ll ever see or hear about, because at least Roy only consumed one ball making zero runs. Thirty balls making not much more than zero is what will cost you your place in an ODI side, not very few balls making very few. Provided you don’t make too much of a habit of it, getting out first or second or third ball is okay. It comes with the territory.
Paul Collingwood was recently accused by various scumbag headline writers - headline writers are the origin of most of the biggest media lies, I find - of calling for “no consequences” cricket. But if you actually read the reports below the scumbag headlines by the scumbag headline writers, you find that what Collingwood really said was stuff like this:
“The guys in world cricket now who have taken the game to the next level are people like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Chris Gayle and they are playing as if they are in the back yard. It’s as if there are no consequences on their wicket whatsoever. Somehow a coach has to get that environment, certainly in the one-day form of the game, to where he can say ‘lads, you’re backed, don’t worry, you have games to fail, go out there and prove what you can do’. I think that is an important factor in how to get the utmost amount of skills from each player.”
“It’s as if there are no consequences ...” Of course there are consequences if you make a succession of small scores and no big ones, as Collingwood perfectly well knows and as he never denied. But the best players play as if that wasn’t the case, because they know that every few tries they’ll make big runs.
Talking of Jason Roy, Roy usually plays for Surrey, and also today, Surrey trounced Leicester with a day to spare, and are now promotion contenders. Leicester, big deal, I hear you sneer. But Surrey have had a bad habit of late of not taking enough wickets in such situations. They have, over recent years, bought in all sorts of big name England or nearly-England bowlers, who then try to bowl sides out at the Oval and lose the will to live, never mind bowl. This win was accomplished by younger bowlers with less starry names, notably by one young bowler called Curran, who also batted well. Also, Surrey now have a new spinner who is coming along nicely called Ansari, and there is talk of him playing for England soon, because he bowls better than Moeen Ali. But Surrey didn’t buy Ansari in after he had already proved his worth, they spotted him early and trained him up themselves. Ansari is also quite a good batter, having learned in recent months the art of hitting boundaries, which he never used to do until this season. It would be nice to see Surrey creating England players (or in Curran’s case maybe South African players, unless England come calling first) rather than just buying them in after someone else has created them, so to speak.
But I digress. In the NZ reply to England, the one-man wrecking ball that is Brendan McCullum hit two fours and then got out, off the last three balls of the first over. And whereas England were able to do without Roy, and later Stokes and new boy Billings, all of whom struck out with the bat, NZ really needed some slogging from McCullum to get them going, and they never truly recovered from his early departure. There were, in other words, consequences to McCullum getting out so quickly. See also: the recent World Cup Final. NZ ended up getting less than half England’s score, losing by 210.
England won the first test match against NZ in style, only to lose the second not at all in style. So they could easily make a hash of the next ODI against NZ, as everyone realises. But in the meantime: hurrah, and I am now going to settle down to watch the TV highlights.
Am I going to have to stop denouncing test matches that clash with the IPL? The IPL didn’t seem to have a lot of close finishes this time around. (Yesterday’s final was over long before it was over, if you get my meaning.) And now, both England and New Zealand have all their top players playing test cricket, in England, in May. And playing it really well. NZ, a far better team now than they were only a few years back, got over 500 in their first innings and a serious first innings lead. But yesterday Cook batted all day, and Stokes scored a century that absolutely did not take all day.
What struck me, watching Stokes on the C5 highlights yesterday evening, was how sweetly his off-drives were struck. He is no mere slogger, although he definitely can slog. Thanks to Stokes, England can now, on the final day, win.
Stokes hitting two blistering scores at number six (he also got 92 in the first innings), and Root not wasting any time at number five, means that Pietersen can now kiss his test career a final goodbye. Had the England batting failed in this mini-series against NZ, and above all had it failed slowly, the cries for Pietersen to come in and beef it up and speed it up would have grown in volume. As it was, the slow guys at the top failed (Lyth and Ballance both twice over), apart from Cook yesterday, while the quick batters got on with it. This leaves no place for Pietersen. Bell? A decent innings in the next game will end any moans about him.
Meanwhile, this test match, as of today, is a real cracker. And today is one of those great test days in London where they cut the prices for the last day and Lord’s suddenly fills up with people like me. Not actually me, today. But I thought about it. And if I thought about actually going, it can’t be that I think the game is meaningless. Score one for the Old Farts who think that the IPL is just a faraway T20 slog of which we know little.
This game began with England being 30 for 4. Now NZ are 12 for 3, “chasing” (the inverted commas there meaning: forget about it) 345. Broad, a bowler who, in between match winning performances, looks like a bit of a waste of space, has two wickets already. Plus, Taylor, whom Broad has just got out, was dropped off him in the previous over, and that now gets mentally chalked up by both sides as further evidence that another wicket is liable to fall at any moment.
Earlier in the week Paul Collingwood of Durham was talking up Stokes, also of Durham. He can bat, said Collingwood, which he could say with confidence after Stokes made his first innings 92. Stokes can also bowl, said Collingwood and should do so earlier than he has tended to so far in his test career. He is not just a filler in, said Collingwood. Well, now, with the score a mere 16 for 3, Stokes is bowling.
At lunch, NZ 21 for 3.
LATER: And just when I thought KP was forgotten, there was Boycott on the radio talking him up, as a replacement for the as-of-now non-firing Ian Bell. So if England get hammered in the first two Ashes tests, with Bell getting four more blobs or near blobs ... Maybe KP ... I just added a question mark to my title.
LATER: Take a bow, Collingwood! Stokes gets Williamson and McCullum in two balls! NZ 61 for 5.
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.
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.