Hail Hail Rock and Roll

Hail Hail Rock and Roll

Chuck Berry(1926-20017).

John Lennon said that another word for rock and roll could be Chuck Berry. Right On. Though Maybellene, Rock and Roll Music and Johnny B Goode are quoted by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as his most significant hits, for me they are You Never Can Tell and Memphis Tennessee .  But what a star. Afro American to his hair and the smile, his style and the rhythm, and his brushes with the law.

When it comes to Afro Americans it is isn’t only the time of their lives that counts its the time they do in their lives. And Chuck certainly did his. He may have had No Particular Place to Go but he was in and out of court all his life.

Although he came from a middle class St Louis  family-dad a businessman, mum a head teacher-  while still at high school he went down for armed robbery. Let out in 1947 he quickly married. Spells in a car plant ,hair dresser and as a janitor while learning to play were followed by a string of hits in the 50s.

He opened a club,oops. One of the girls he employed  and had a bit of fun with was underage. No doubt she wore tight dresses and lipstick and sported high heel shoes. But this was one teenage affair the old folks didn’t wish well. He won the first appeal but not the second. Three years son. No digging the mambo where he was going.

He liked his Monkey Business. He may have walked like a duck but the rest of him was pretty normal. He is a rock n’ roll star so he gets lots.  Nevertheless the mother of his four children stayed by his side to the end. He might have been up to something new, she weren’t.

But the great poet knew about separation “She could not leave her number,  but I know who placed the call/Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall.” Who doesn’t feel the tears or hear the wail of the last train to Memphis.

Roll over Beethoven. Chuck doesn’t like paying tax, who does. Especially after an early manager ran off with the loot ,he is famously penny wise. He demands to be paid in cash. In 79 he is done for tax evasion. In the slammer he must go. He is getting on but his Dingaling didn’t stop working. He opens a restaurant and puts a video in the women’s rest room. The ladies sue and he settles out of court. Costs over $1m in 1990.The police raid his place and he is done for possession. Sentence suspended.

But his trips to the court house don’t end. Fellow musician  Johnnie Johnson pops up in 2000 and claims he co wrote  Sweet Little16, No Particular and Roll Over. Case thrown out for being out of time. Berry was lucky ,if  he had been caught speeding in Los  Angeles he would never had made thirty let alone ninety.

My clip shows the famous scene in Pulp Fiction as they dance to You Never Can Tell. The King is Dead. Long Live Rock and Roll.



I am off for three weeks to Tamil Nadu. Normal service resumed on return.












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Ja Haar Oorlog

Ja Haar Oorlog

For those cant speak Dutch, this means, Yes Its War.

With the election out of the way there is nothing to stop the Dutch and the Turks stopping the Jaw Jaw and going for the  War War. The ambassadors have been withdrawn. Insults have been traded, though why didnt  the Dutch when accused of being Nazis and the sinners of Srebrinica  retaliate and talk about the 1.5 million   Armenians who disappeared from Turkey in 1915. Nice guys don’t win wars.

First there will be the tit for tat trade war. The Dutch will cease to sell tulips to Ankara and no doubt the Turks will stop selling quinces and hazelnuts to the Hague. There will be a burning of flags and if they exist, Turkish-Dutch dictionaries will be chucked on the flames.

And then its down to the real thing. Unfortunately the Turkish Army is either somewhere in Syria killing  Kurds or somewhere in Turkey doing the same thing. They cant be spared. The Dutch Army who served in Bosnia, Kosovo(uhm),Iraq and Afghanistan is highly unionised and needs notice of any hostilities.  There is also a health and safety issue over the driver only tank.    These problems  can be sorted but they take time.

In the mean time cyberwarfare will take place. Here the Dutch have the upper hand. Not only do they have one of the world’s foremost electronic industries(Phillips etc) but they have  one of the world’s foremost porn industries. No one goes to Amsterdam just for the canals and the art.

So every computer in Turkey will be hacked and soon will get a large dose of when Helga met Jan and his dog Spot. After that what happened when the plumber(loodgieter) came round to the nurse’s( verpleegkundig) flat.

Now the present Turkish cod dictator is trying to create a modern theocracy. Instead of learning why the Koran is relevant in todays cyber age,little Mustapha will be asking his sister Djamila, why is he putting his pee pee into her whim yam. Err what does it taste of. Can you do  oral sex wearing a hijib? Must you shave? Is it sinful if you do it holding the Koran and or keeping your shoes and socks on?

So, those pesky Arabs had better watch out, when the  Dutch mean business they can be ruthless. After all (non union) von Tromp did the business against the Royal Navy.(see link) Ok that was  400 years ago, but hey, whose counting.

Naar Overwinning(Onto Victory)







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Vanity All Vanity

Vanity All Vanity

I am vain. I regularly weigh myself. Between 13.9 and 14 stone since you ask. Up half a stone since I gave up trekking and running four years ago. Slight gut but not too bad. Enough I hope to be a fattist. One of the many things that binds our marriage is that the child bride and I are  iron cross members of the Fat is Ugly Party.

We both know that around 1960 there were very few fat people . Still none in Nepal. Now there are many and they are concentrated in what in politically incorrect terms are the poorer areas. Few in Putney,less in Hampstead more in Mitcham and go to somewhere like Hastings and it is a regular hippo farm. Eating too much of the wrong food ,sure is part of the story. Not enough exercise is another. AS important is social acceptance, where everyone is fat, everyone is fat.

Fat people are less attractive and therefore less employable, therefore it is hardly surprising concentrated in less competitive work environments such as, ironically the NHS and the Police . There are more fat people in the centre of Huddersfield than in the City. There are fat bankers and estate agents but not that many. There are a some who have fat related genetic problems-but where were their grandparents in 1960? There  is a   difference between fat and obese. Women after child birth have every excuse to be overweight but in middle class areas  wives work back to attractive shapes quickly, they live in a competitive world, they know that at a certain point there can be a turn off. Elsewhere the effort is not made.

The mainstream middle classes historically and culturally compete on every  level possible (family, school, looks, money, culture,etc)-which is what makes and keeps them middle class. Those that don’t compete are called drop outs. So those that go to fat have, at least on one level,have lost. The working class do not compete, they barely ask questions of each other, tolerance and live and let live is how you get by nearer the bottom of the ladder. Theirs is a non judgemental culture .

All this came to mind last week when the tabloid press ran stories of the world’s fattest woman 78 stone Eman Aty, a 36 year old Egyptian.(see link) She was craned and boxed out of her apartment which she had left for 25 years and shipped to Mumbia for treatment.

This led me to Britain’s fattest women Brenda Davies who died aged 44 weighing 40 stone three years ago. The story  got more bizarre  ,five years previously she had met and married 63 Ronald,who proudly told the tabloids that they broke the bed on their honeymoon. Then she was a lass of 29stone. By the end the bed having been mended she could not leave it and a fridge was placed next, so that she could “indulge in her addiction to 6000 calories a day.”

This morning I had gone down 1lb, 13.8. Yes! https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=J18l36sc&id=7F143EB1BE2295455A9F23BA114F9B8380D825FB&q=78+stone+woman&simid=608042180790321997&selectedIndex=2&qpvt=78+stone+woman&ajaxhist=0

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Elle of a Movie

Elle of a Movie

You live with a dominant woman and then two more come along. First humourless Hedda and then the amazing Isabelle Huppert in Elle.  Hell of a movie. Ok its a black comedy, revenge noir, a feminist take on the old line of sex as a power play. But all with that French brilliance, that wonderful Gallic shrug that says, you have  monogamy, you stay faithful, bored and honest, poor you. Or is that the message? Does it end happily? Is that the point?

So  with Restoration nonchalance hopeless husbands, feeble sons, sexually  demanding best friends partners, mothers from  one level of hell, the father from the lowest level, are thrown onto the burning pyre. The film is driven by  rape. Brutal, violent and  absolute but with an effect that is totally unexpected. The cat of course watches.

Isabelle is a powerful woman who runs a successful video games company which features rapes in its movies. But young men and powerful women work in this company, so games must be played. Drop them cowboy, sorry wrong size.

The sexual politics twist and turn, younger women make their bid but they just don’t have the cool, men come and  go. In one great scene Isabelle who has taken a shine to her banker neighbour is sitting at her window with a pair of bins. Her quarry is setting up a life size babe in the manger tableau in the garden. He is carrying a Madonna under his arm. She is watching and masturbating. As you do. Sex and religion is far more compelling than sex and drugs. This is Restoration comedy at its bawdiest, most violent and most compelling. Totally French. Je l’aime.

And there is no Anglo Saxon actress  who gets near Isabelle. Magnifique. I wrote my first fan letter yesterday. She is such a bitch, she will bin it. Merci, merci.












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Perfect Weekend

Perfect Weekend

Every month FT’s How To Spend It magazine asks someone to describe their perfect weekend. This week it was the wonderful designer Paul Smith. Here I have a go.

There are many weekends when we are away. However, since I retired  nine years ago, to make the weekend at home different , I have made various artificial changes to the routine. It starts by changing the all information Radio 4 to all music Radio 3. Giving up muesli for croissants, English breakfast  tea for the darkest Continental coffee bean. More important Saturday is paper day. The all dancing heavyweight FT and Guardian packages give us enough breakfast reading for nearly the whole  week.

Vivien does yoga on Saturday morning and I wallow in the papers. The climax of which  is when I take the excellent Guardian Review section to the old fashioned ,slightly decrepit Bricklayers Arms. Here at midday  Saturday a group of ageing oarsmen from nearby London Rowing meet. I sit in the corner and listen. If Fulham are playing at home others join.

There are days when it is so bright that a walk is  called for,two  hours either across the Park or along the  river gets me to Richmond, slightly less time across the Common gets  me to Wimbledon. Then it’s back by bus or train .

If Rosslyn Park are playing at home I might go, I often do a matinee either in the West End or go to one of the nearby fringe theatres in Richmond or Shepherds Bush. Two weeks ago Viv and I went to Low Level Panic at the Orange Tree. On the way home I might pop into the club for a couple.

A pleasant supper a deux would inevitably be followed by  snoozing in front of another excellent Scandy detective series.

Sunday would kick off with Leo bringing grand daughter Octavia for breakfast and  skyping Adelaide in Sydney. By mid morning we are free to either cycle to Kew Gardens or walk to the Wetlands to bird watch, or Bishops Park to buy great bread and superb olives. Mid afternoon often sees us catching a bus to one of the nearby Curzon cinemas to watch an art film. French preferably. Typically on Sunday we saw Elle with Isabelle Huppert. Of which more tomorrow. Move over Pooter.Exciting times!

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Hedda Gabler Ate My Hampster

Hedda Gabler Ate My Hamster

Is of course fake news, but what a bitch.

Like many we went last week to the movie theatre to see the much praised National Theatre production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Like most drama written north and east of the Rhine there are more tears than laughs, more deaths than births. Fine. Is it those long winter nights that  have the Scandies peering into the gloom and asking what is it all about. While sex, drugs and rock and roll are enough for most of us for the Scandy this is cannot be the whole story. And so he/she worries himself,and those around her, literally to death.

While the child bride was mesmerised by every one of Hedda’s destructive whims and fancies  , the red wine got the better of me and I missed “the  best bits”. I will never learn that the race between wine and high culture is an unequal contest.

But the experience reminded me of the Ibsen/Joyce connection. No one can understand Joyce’s career unless you grab hold of his (and his friends and family’s)  precocious belief in his total greatness.  Thousands of nights in bed sitting rooms never diminished this flame. Early confirmation was vital. In 1900,aged 18 ,Joyce wrote for the prestigious Fortnightly Review “Ibsen’s New Drama”.  For this he was paid  12 guineas. He was now a made literary man. As Richard Ellman wrote in his definitive biography “this confirmation of  his good opinion of himself encouraged him to stand  even more aloof.”

But better was to come. Ibsen heard of this review and wrote him a personal note. To which Joyce replied “the words of Ibsen I shall keep in my heart all my life.” Ellman states,This note”fell upon him like a benison(blessing) at the beginning of his career.”

Great linguist that he was Joyce learnt Dano-Norwegian so he could read Ibsen in the original. This allowed him to write in 1901 to the playwright a birthday epistle in his own language.” Your battles inspired me” It was pretentious, overwritten, long, cod intellectual, fan mail. As Ellman says,”This is the sort of letter which the recipient discards hastily and the writer files away; Joyce did in fact keep and English draft.”

Back to Hedda. Thinking of Nora,Joyce’s long suffering partner and eventual wife, supportive and totally loyal, no Hedda she. If she had been, maybe no Joyce. Not alive any way.



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Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Maybe  her sister Vanessa Bell. These two remarkable women ,the heart of the legendary Bloomsbury group have been described as being “close, loving and rivalrous.” Elsewhere referred to as “more like twins than sisters”. In many ways it is ironic that they took  their husbands names. While Bell was calm, reasonable and understated her more famous sister was witty, tangential and outspoken. Virginia’s breakdowns were a  feature throughout her life and  ‘Nessa was in constant fear of another dark cloud  descending on her sister. Its Leonard Woolf’s greatest achievement that he kept his wife productive so long.

In the present exhibition at the perfectly formed Dulwich Gallery ,Vanessa Bell is given the honour recently awarded to  fellow  Bloomsbury artist Dora Carrington . In it there are three portraits of her sister two without faces. Now I am no Freud….

But however close they were,and they were, there was a problem with husband Clive Bell. He is of course always considered a bit of a fellow traveller to the great Bloomsbury caravan. Maybe, always a  womaniser(snob,anti Semite etc), Vanessa had turned him down twice and when the sons appeared in 1908 and 1910 Clive turned his attentions to Virginia. And she replied. Its was a saucy, potentially erotic courtship but  it is no surprise given Virginia attitude to heterosexual sex that it was never consummated. Her marriage was probably similar. It was one of the few Bloomsbury triangles that did not become active. But no less potent for that.

The damage was done. Virginia wrote,”My affair with Clive and Nessa wounded me more than anything else has ever done.” Although there was always a tension,they remained close,their famous Sussex homes only a few miles apart .Virginia felt “We see through the same eyes,only our spectacles are different.”

Nessa went on to have famous affairs with the largely gay Duncan Grant and Roger Fry at the same time as keeping an active friendship with Bell. Vanessa’s marriage survived and she had the even more famous lesbian affair with Vita Sackville West. She wrote to her lover

“I told Nessa of our passion in a chemists shop the other day. But do you really like going to bed with  women, she said, taking her change. And how do you do it.” Nessa was not alone in the Bloomsbury set of having an incomprehension of lesbians. All the gay men(they referred to themselves as buggers) were also incredulous. Queen Victoria was not alone, what was good for the gander was not good for the goose.

As for the Dulwich show? A good excuse to have charming lunch  with two university(not uni!)friends, Barbara and Marshall. But  Bell,if she wasn’t Bloomsbury, would we care? Just possibly given the interest in  female artists. But Bloomsbury  is important and influential, I wasn’t told who my father was until I was forty. Vanessa told her daughter when she was 17.










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