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Thursday, 19 April 2018


It’s a tedious business swimming thirty lengths. The mind switches off in sulk. Sometimes it wanders… I have no idea why I began silently chanting an old children's rhyme.
Eeny meeny miny mo
 Catch an Indian by the toe

Don’t ask me why, me neither, but I stopped. Was this permissible? I tried again.
Eeny meeny, miny mo
Catch a Chinaman by the toe.
No
Frenchie, perhaps. Too Brexity.

Tried again with ‘Welshman’ and stopped in sudden fear that Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood and Arfon Jones the ineffective police commissioner of North Wales might leap upon me. Like they leapt upon Ron Liddle. The Times Columnist had waded into the row over the renaming of the Severn Bridge in his usual provocative style:

 “The Welsh, or some of them, are moaning that a motorway bridge linking their rain-sodden valley with the First World is to be renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge. In honour of the venal, grasping, deranged (if Tom Bower’s new biography is accurate) heir to the throne.
“That Plaid Cymru woman who is always on Question Time has been leading the protests. They would prefer it to be called something indecipherable with now real vowels, such as Ysgythysggymlngwchgwch Bryggy.
“Let them have their way. So long as it allows people to get out of the place pronto, should we worry about what it’s called?”

The North Welsh police reluctantly concluded that Liddle had broken no law —a nicety for the North Wales police and crime commissioner, Arfon Jones. Liddle’s column was not just ‘offensive and irresponsible’ but ‘morally repugnant and an absolute disgrace’ and should not be allowed. The Welsh Language Commissioner agrees, arguing that ‘offensive comments about Wales, the Welsh Language and its speakers are ‘totally unacceptable,’ and that something must be done to ‘stop these comments . . . Legislation is needed to . . . prevent language hate.’

It’s the curse of our time, words and thoughts cordoned off by cultural nods, nudges and winks. In Oscar Wilde’s day there was only one crime that ‘dared not speak its name’ Now they’re  proliferating by the minute. Opaque curtains limiting thought.

I changed to backstroke and returned to the rhyme.

So, not a Welshman. ‘A Liddle’ then.  ‘Catch a Liddle by the toe.’ But did I want to incur the great man’s wrath? Did I want to be the subject of his next column?

And then I had it, or thought I had. ‘Catch a fascist by the toe.’ Who could object to that? But then...didn’t that make them kind of vulnerable, endearing even in their helplessness?

Language is a slippery business. If we were to chant ‘Catch a baby by the toe,’ you again have something endearing, something quite cute. And this highlights the double-edged sword of the euphemism. We never abort babies. Such is an accepted fact, a shibboleth. We abort ‘foetuses’ and thus the ‘procedure’ becomes socially acceptable. And yet how come the chant ‘Catch a foetus by the toe’ sounds infinitely chilling?

On my 25th length, I finally had it sorted. ‘Catch a Kardashian by the toe’. No offence there, so long as their bottoms looked good.





Never think deeply when swimming


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Friday, 6 April 2018

Your breasts are a little flat, but beyond that you're dynamite


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Some things are just too good not to share – especially for writers – especially for those writing about women. These examples from the Times make me feel much better.

1)    Her breasts stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious.
2)    I even became somewhat suspicious and critical of her serene, womanly beauty. Or rather, of the regard in which she seems to hold her eyes, her nose, her throat, her breasts, her hips, her legs. (Mercifully he stops there.)
3)    Her breasts were large enough to inspire thoughts of lust, but had the comforting appeal of a beloved nanny or nurse. (She should have stopped there). Her hips and bum told a different story – wild nights in dance halls; swing in callipygian glory. (No, me neither)
4)    Standing there trying to get the waist of her skirt suit to link at her side, the tops of her breasts, swollen with untaken milk pushing above her bra, she does have a plumpness, a fullness that calls to him.
5)    Despite her round face, the only thing sitting higher than her breasts were her cheekbones.
6)    Tall and lissom, Dr Brooks moved with the assertive gait of an athlete.
At this point I stopped, there being only six examples on offer, and thought with some longing of an earlier, more down to earth age. I talk of the interwar Poet Laureate Peter Cheyney:
‘I think you’re a mysterious woman. Your breasts are a little flat, but beyond that you’re dynamite. And that’s what I think.’ The Dark Street.
Does anyone else have any favourites?

For those curious about the authors above, the answers can be found after three ‘cleansing’ paintings. Yes, Newport was beautiful once, before the darkness set in. The magic was always there.










1)     Jack Kerouac ‘On the Road’
2)     Philip Roth, ‘The Professor of Desire’
3)     YourFavouriteBlackAuntie, on Twitter
4)     John Updike ‘Rabbit Run’
5)     Vanessa Salkova on Twitter
6)     Dan Brown ‘Inferno’

Friday, 30 March 2018

What has happened to the Labour Party? If you don’t like the question, blame John Lennon.



I’m a passionate Brexiteer but don’t bang on about it. There seems little point when you consider political constructs come and go and we’re dead a long time. What I find fascinating are the deep and heartfelt convictions that breathe life into past conflicts. It’s easy enough to understand, on an intellectual level, the arguments that drove the wars of religion, the conflict between roundheads and cavaliers, appeasers and those who opposed them - but what about the passions that fired them?  Present divisions allow us to savour the driving force beneath the dust of historical text.

And speaking of dust and historical text . . .



I was doing a spot of tidying,  rifling through some very old newspapers, and discovered The Guardian Wednesday 10th 1980 with two front-page headlines:
Lennon Murder shocks thousands
Labour looks at three-year exit from the EEC
The EEC being an earlier incarnation of the E U of course. 

I read on - skimming - focusing on the salient bits:

‘It might take up to three years for a Labour Government to effect Britain’s withdrawal from the Common Market….’

‘The report which suggests that the withdrawal be conducted in two stages, is likely to be published by the Labour Party next spring…’

‘It makes clear that while Labour will go for a clean break with Common Market membership, a future Labour Government would not want to retreat into a nationalistic isolationism…’

‘Significantly, the report insists that the objects of EEC withdrawal resolution passed by the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool cannot be fulfilled merely by repealing those sections of the 1972 European Communities Act which subordinated the House of Commons to the Council of Ministers in Brussels….’

‘The suggestion that Labour merely attempts yet another renegotiation of the terms of EEC membership is dismissed as likely to achieve little and as “acutely demoralising for the party”

‘The key proposal in the report is that the first step to be taken by the next Labour Government would be “withdrawal from the Council of Ministers from the European Parliament . . . and from other EEC institutions, and abolition of any rights of jurisdiction that the European Court has in Britain.” All of this, it is suggested, could be achieved in six to 12 months and “would effectively mark the end of our membership of the Community.”

‘A second stage would have to follow, during which Britain gradually disentangled itself from “the mass of of EEC regulations, directives, and decisions, and from the complex admininstrative arrangements involved in, for example the Common Agricultural Policy…and also in phasing in alternative domestic arrangements.” ….Withdrawal would also….(make) it easier to establish a fishing regime more to the liking of British fishermen and while the United Kingdom would be denied access to EEC regional development and social funds, Britain would on balance be better off in purely financial terms because there would no longer be any payment to the EEC budget.’

The irony continues

‘The prospect of the Labour Party renewing its campaign for EEC withdrawal is also bound to weigh heavily with Mrs Thatcher as the British election grows nearer and despite the Government’s present campaign to popularise Community membership’

One supposes Keir Starma, Chukka Ummuna, Lord Adonis et al would feel more at home in Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet than they would have done in the Labour Party of that time. It’s a Topsy Turvy world.