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Friday, 18 December 2020

Praise where praise is due.

Have you ever bought something, and then realised too late it was a mistake—and the worst kind of mistake? In this case, the mistake was on the part of the supplier but compounded by our failure to do anything about it until almost too late. 

We are both admirers of Vincent Van Gogh; I’ve met few people who aren’t. And after a visit to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, I bought my wife a canvas of a painting seen in Tate Britain and one she particularly admired.

This is what it should have been.

This is what we got. 

And our mistake was in the fruitless months we spent in deluding ourselves (well, attempting to) that it was perhaps the light—if we squinted—if we turned widdershins three times with eyes closed and then opened them—everything would be alright. But, curtains closed, lights on, curtains open and sun pouring in—the result was the same muddy teal effect instead of the glorious blue. 

I didn’t have to sense my wife’s disappointment. She told me tactfully so, with little hope of success, I wrote to Tate Britain:


This, I'm afraid is a delayed complaint. I bought from you a print of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Starry Night as a Christmas present for my wife last year. It’s been almost a year now that we've tried to convince ourselves that our eyes are just playing tricks and that we are the proud owners of a replica picture we saw at the exhibition and on display in your shop.

I have no idea who is at fault here, other than ourselves for not complaining at once, but as I said, we foolishly tried to convince ourselves that everything was fine when clearly it was not.

I'd appreciate very much your opinion of the two pictures attached, the one we expected and the one we received. It certainly colours the possibility of any other purchases (and there is one in mind) as well as recommending such purchases to others.

Hoping you are well in these difficult times

Mike Keyton

You could have knocked me down with half a feather when I got this response.

Hello Michael,

Thank you for getting in touch and for your ongoing patience. I can only apologise for the delayed response, we have been working with a higher demand on a reduced team but I can assure you that we are getting on top of things now.


I am sorry to see that you’re dissatisfied with your print; I just wanted to assure you that I have passed your feedback onto our Print Production Manager and they will investigate the image file used for this print. We always try to match the piece to the artwork as well as we can but obviously, it can be difficult to accurately reflect the nuances of oil paintings in a print format.


I do agree that this print is far from ideal, though and therefore, if you would like to receive one, I would like to offer you a replacement print of another artwork. If this is acceptable, please do let me know your preferences, as well as confirming your address and I can raise the order for you.


I can assure you that we will investigate the issues with the Starry Night piece but it can take quite some time for us to process a new image if possible.


Please do let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with,



That is really kind of you and it’s very much appreciated. In an ideal world, we’d be happy with a better replacement for the same £75 canvas print. It’s my wife’s favourite painting by Van Gogh. But if that is impossible we’d be very happy with a canvas print to the same value of Vincent Van Gogh Farms near Auvers. Please could you confirm if this is possible?

Thank you again,   

Mike Keyton

Hello Michael,


Thank you for getting back to me.


Yes, I am happy to raise a complimentary order for any custom print that you would like, not limited to canvas prints but also any framed prints if you would prefer.


I am sorry that we aren’t able to offer another order of your wife’s favourite painting at the moment but the process of reassessing and processing a print file can take a number of months to complete, and we have a reduced workforce at the moment, so I wouldn’t be able to predict how long this will take.


Let me know if you would like to proceed with the Farms near Auvers canvas print.


Additionally, I would also be happy to offer you a pair of Starry Night over the Rhône espresso mugs as this is the other product we have with this artwork, as a small gift and gesture of goodwill to yourself and your wife.

So now we are the proud possessors of:

as well as two small bone china cups. 

And the best way of saying thanks (we've done that of course) is publically giving credit where credit is due. Thank you Tate Gallery London.

The last blog post of 2020. Fingers crossed for 2021 

PS The weird white background is due, I suspect, to copying and pasting from email (names and details retracted) Sorry about that. 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Peggy or Bob

So, after all the heat and excitement, Punch replaces Judy, or is it the other way round? Whatever the case, it is a return to business as usual—for a time at least. 


An analysis by the Wall Street Journal listed at least forty former lobbyists on the President Elect’s ‘transition task force.’ They included executives from Lyft, Amazon, Capital One, Uber, Visa and J P Morgan. In Joe Biden’s words, these ‘reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration.’ Nice to know, if a little dispiriting. Perhaps even worrying.


Donald Trump was elected in 2016, despite his faults, despite the hostility of leading MSM outlets, despite everything precisely because of a groundswell of hostility to this ‘business as usual’ disguised as democracy. And yet here we go again. Even a cursory glance at the new administration illustrates this.


The new advisor to Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency is Michael McCabe, a former consultant to DuPont and head of a $130 billion transnational corporation that lobbied to deregulate environmental standards.

And John Kerry, the man who owns 6 houses, 12 cars, 2 yachts and a private jet as the proposed new ‘Climate Czar?’ You couldn’t make it up. 

Much of Joe Biden’s new Pentagon Team (war office) consists of those funded by the arms industry. 

Susan Rice, Obama’s former ambassador to the UN, was instrumental in the US intervention in the Libyan Civil War and accused of misleading American news networks as to the cause of the Benghazi massacre. When the Obama administration came to an end, she was given a nice sinecure on the board of Netflix. Why? Both question and answer leave a bad taste in the mouth. It resembles the corruption of the Medieval Church, where those in the Pope’s favour received Bishoprics or less prestigious offices (the revenues at least) without necessarily being there or doing the job. It’s rife in Britain;  we call it the House of Lords, though well-renumerated directorships demanding little more than two days attendance fits the bill too. But I diverge. Susan Rice is now in the running for a foreign policy position in the new administration. 


For all his faults, Trump avoided wars. With or without Susan Rice, expect expansionist adventures in eastern Europe and Ukraine. Poking the Russian bear. A splendid idea. Expect excitement in the Middle East too. “America is back.” As are neo-cons and those with Ukrainian interests, as, too, the body-bags, I suspect.


However worthy other appointees may be, the much-vaunted diversity in the new administration also makes for nice packaging, cover for decisions made by those who make policy. Even Kamala Harris, Biden’s likely replacement a year down the line, is a known quantity and likely regarded as biddable by the establishment. I doubt she’ll be allowed to rock the boat very much. I suspect she doesn’t really want to.


Was so much fervour and heat expended for this? It’s akin to an alternative world, an alternative Russian Revolution—Bolshevism Vs the Tsarist regime replaced by Team Rasputin Vs Team Yusupov. 


However, greater forces prevailed in Russia, and likewise, with or without Trump, the forces that propelled him to power will not just go away. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Biden-Ukrainian dossier, censored or ignored by the MSM and big tech. Will it resurface or go down the memory plughole? That of course depends on six companies who largely control what America hears and sees—as in Britain too. 




In my view, the future is far from rosy: low-level civil disturbance and/or ‘soft repression.’ The legalisation of pot may satisfy some. One commentator posited that this may well be the future of America, possibly the west: the gutting of a viable middle-class and its replacement by a gig working proletariat kept distracted/content by celebrities, gaming, pot and a universal basic wage; a C21st version of the old Roman ‘Bread and Circuses,’ as the wealthy leached an empire dry.


 It worked well for a time, until population decline, disease and barbarian migration burst the bubble. Rome also had to contend with the Parthian empire on its eastern front. America may or may not see parallels across the Pacific, though one hopes that no American president finds himself in the unfortunate position of the Roman emperor, Valerian. This hapless emperor sought peace by attempting to buy off the Parthians. Instead, he was captured in the process of offering the bribe and reduced to a human footstool by the Parthian king Shapur.


So, at best ‘business as usual’ or in Peggy Lee’s words ‘Is this all there is?”

Or perhaps the more apocalyptic:


Friday, 4 December 2020

What did they put in those mince pies?

We sat with our coffees and mince pies, contemplating the dystopian vision beneath us , a vast  ocean of snow, a frozen sea. 

Our future when the sea levels rise and the valleys are flooded. 

An indication where to build and where not to.

And then the mist slowly lifts over the fields 

And Monmouth coyly peeps through

On a similar day we explored a forgotten world when railways were king 

And like awestruck barbarians contemplating the ruins of Rome 

Wept to see the abandoned ruins of great Victorians. 

Well, we didn't actually weep. We went indoors and had a cup of tea.

For those interested in the scale and history of the Iron Bridge and Viaduct, the wiki link is here.