Thursday, November 17, 2011

Here Today and Here Tomorrow

You must have noticed, (he said presumptuously), that I’ve been less than diligent in my blogging this year. This is my excuse: it’s the likely cover of the masterpiece I’ve been working on for the past year or more, and which, to my indescribable relief, just went off to the anxiously awaiting publisher. It will be another in a series being published by I.B. Tauris that features interesting places like Tuscany, the French Riviera, Morocco and such, as seen through the eyes of the writers who lived and wrote there.
One summer evening in 1787, in the conservatory of his garden in Lausanne, Edward Gibbon put down his pen having finished writing The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He wrote later that he experienced two conflicting sensations: relief - at what he called “the recovery of my freedom”. But then, “a sober melancholy was spread over my mind by the idea that I had taken everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion…”. As I handed my manuscript over the counter in Windsor Post Office, I understood, on an infinitely smaller scale, just how he must have felt. Relief, yes, and freedom - but also loss. My own “old and agreeable companion” will be called something like Florence and Tuscany: A Literary Guide. But while Gibbon’s magnificent work had taken him 23 years, my humble effort has been my constant companion for fewer than 23 months – but long enough for me to miss it now it's gone.
We thought, the DG and I, after visiting Florence and Tuscany for more than 15 years, that we knew something about the region, but our research over these past months has shown us only how much there is yet to know about this wonderful place. Writing books about writers is both absorbing and exciting: it links them unforgettably with places you know and love, but there’s a bonus: the writers that you know introduce you to new and different writers, and together they lead you to places that you only thought you knew. I hope the book will do the same for its readers, whether exploring for themselves or armchair travelling. It’s been a fascinating journey for us, trekking in the footsteps of seven centuries of writers, from Dante and Chaucer to Sinclair Lewis and Muriel Spark - and a hundred others, and we’re sorry it’s over – especially as the next jobs are boring but necessary stuff like galley-proofing and the Index, but while I can’t wait to see it in the shops, it’s the great satisfaction of writing that, contrary to Gibbon’s “everlasting leave”, it’s not at all like pictorial art: because when the book goes out of the door, you still have it. For ever.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mr. Butterfly

Watched a TV programme the other night in which Rick Stein talked about food in the context of Italian opera – just when you thought they’d run out of hooks on which to hang cookery programmes. Still, the music was good. Stein disclosed to awe-struck viewers the favourite foods of assorted operatic composers, so I know - or I did the other night - the culinary preferences of people like Verdi, Rossini and Puccini.
Puccini was born in Lucca. It is one of my favourite cities in Tuscany, and not only because my wife and I got engaged there. A bronze figure of Puccini sits, bronze cigar in hand, outside his natal home. The town honours him with a festival of his music every summer. A plaque on a wall nearby reads: “Love and poetry tormented the genius but the musical city gave his magical violin the wings of glory.”
A century later, another tormented genius lived in Lucca: the great jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker. The funny valentine who thought he could live undisturbed in sleepy Lucca spent a year there as a guest of the Carcere di San Giorgio, the town’s ancient prison, for possessing heroin. Every evening, while his red Ferrari gathered dust outside, the pie-eyed piper drew fans old and new to gather on the city walls outside the prison to listen to him practise. Local jazz musicians would join in to entertain what was truly a captive audience. Chet’s appeal against his 22-month sentence was eventually successful and he was released in time for Christmas - as was his album, Chet is Back, on which he sang some Italian songs he wrote in Lucca jail.

A few years later I saw him in a small jazz club in Nice, but I didn’t hear him play. He arrived on stage two hours late, someone led him by the arm towards a chair; he sat and put his trumpet to his lips, but no sound came out. No one moved, and the few people who started to murmur were immediately shushed by their neighbours. He tried again, several times, but produced no more than a few squawks and some mumbled words about new false teeth. I never saw him again: the last weeks in the life of one of the world’s greatest jazz trumpeters - the musician who played alongside the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie - were spent in the back streets of Amsterdam, the city to which he had always returned in search of his needs. His twisted body was found in the street beneath the hotel window at which he used to play.

In Lucca, no bronze statue sits outside Chet Baker’s custodial home; no annual festival celebrates his music, and no commemorative plaque records his passing. But there is a plaque in a cobbled street in Amsterdam. It reads: “Chet Baker died here on May 13, 1988. He will live on in his music for everyone willing to listen and feel”.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


This is the Casa Magni, the beachside house in the Italian coastal village of Lerici, on the beautiful Gulf of La Spezia, to which the English poet Shelley was sailing when his boat capsized and he drowned, just days before his 30th birthday. Writing about writers is an endless process of discovery: you set off seeking traces of a writer and discover places that you weren't looking for. The converse is equally true: while looking for unknown places, you find writers you didn’t know. While researching the last days of Shelley I found Lerici and the magnificent Cinque Terre – the five crepuscular “countries” to the west of the Gulf. In turn, researching Shelley led me to another writer that I didn’t know: his biographer, Richard Holmes, of whom I’ve been a fan ever since. Not the moustachioed historian seen on BBC TV, but the self-styled “Romantic Biographer” whose Footsteps is the sort of book I wanted this one to be. (It isn’t.)
Places can also introduce you to writers you thought you knew, but didn’t. I thought I knew English author E. M. Forster - but that was before I discovered the medieval towered city of San Gimignano (below) and read Where Angels Fear to Tread, which is set there. It was his first novel, begun on his first visit to Tuscany with his mother in 1900 at the age of 21 - eight years before A Room with a View and 21 years before A Passage to India. One critic of the book complained that “The picturesqueness of his diction is invariably marred by his superficiality of thought” – the very words I would like to hear said about me. But, superficial or not, there is youthful wisdom there. Forster on Italian so-called “bad taste”: “it is not the bad taste of a country which knows no better; it is not the nervous vulgarity of England, or the blinded vulgarity of Germany. It observes beauty, and chooses to pass it by”. And on parenthood: “a wonderful physical tie binds the parents to the children; and – by some strange irony – it does not bind us children to our parents”. Fair enough - parental love is essential to the survival of the race, but not the filial variety.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Almost there

Taking a rest after four trips to Tuscany in ten months. We tried to get some sympathy but no one wept, so might as well admit that it was tremendous fun. It was like that song in Kiss Me Kate: We Open in Venice, except that we opened in Pisa last September, and then Florence, Livorno and Florence again, with side trips to Pisa, Siena, Lucca, Volterra, Arezzo, La Spezia, Montepulciano and San Gimignano, plus some writing and more research in between. Now that the research and writing on the Literary Guide to Tuscany is just about complete and the draft is almost ready for submission, I guess I should feel relieved, but can’t get rid of the feeling that there’s so much more of Tuscany waiting to be seen and that we just ran out of time.
Florence especially always has more to see. The great Sinclair Lewis – first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature - in his World So Wide called it “a city of ancient reticences and modern energy” – meaning it’s not just one city but several: Florence, the birthplace of banking, the city whose name became the first international unit of currency – eight centuries before the Euro; Florence the museum, existing thousands of years before the Romans arrived; Florence, cradle of the Renaissance; and of course Florence, the birthplace of Dante, Galileo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci. All this genius from a city the size of Blackburn. Question: How many geniuses can you name from Blackburn? Answer: Nat Lofthouse.
There’s a large rock in the square by the cathedral, on which Dante is reputed to have sat in the 14th century while waiting for inspiration. It’s called Il Sasso di Dante – Dante’s seat - and it has since inspired many a poetic posterior: Browning, Wordsworth, Dickens - and me. (Well at least it worked for them.) A new marble Sasso di Dante appeared in the piazza recently, reputed to be a PR event promoting an adjacent bar, the name of which is, of course, Il Sasso di Dante. Now, to avoid confusion, the signage on Dante’s original granite seat has been changed. It is now labelled Il Vero Sasso di Dante - “The true stone of Dante”.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Room with a View

In 1901, the English novelist E. M. Forster and his mother stayed in the Pensione Simi on the right bank of the River Arno in Florence – a typical Florentine boarding house of the type frequented by Victorian tourists. “It had a cockney landlady”, said the snooty Forster, “who scatters Hs like morsels”. It gave him the idea for a novel, A Room with a View, published six years later.

In the opening scene of A Room with a View, a group of equally snooty mature English spinsters staying in the Pensione Bertolini are having a collective moan: one of them complaining loudly that she asked for a room with a view of the river, but did not get one. As she drones on, a male guest – not of their party – says that his room has a view, and that he would be glad to exchange rooms with her. The snobby complainer lowers her voice, content with something else to moan about: bad enough that, as the man’s accent and attire clearly reveal, he is from a social stratum lower than that of her or her friends, but he has addressed her without being spoken to.

There is still a riverside pensione at 2, Lungarno delle Grazie - not now called Pensione Simi - but we didn’t stay there: we rented an apartment nearby. It was in an ancient building - on the third floor - and the shutters were closed when we went in. We knew from the map that when we opened them we would not see the Arno. Instead, a bible-throw away, was this: Brunelleschi’s dome, waiting there since 1461. Who got the room with the view?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Space Invaders

A new record: the spam percentage of my incoming mail yesterday was 100% - up from 95%. Usual stuff – Viagra, aggrandizement of genitalia and such. (How did they know?) I now even get spam comments on the blog, but fortunately they only reach me as e-mails and don’t get onto the blog. You’d think the spam filter that can keep them out of the blog could suppress them – but that’s way too technical for me.

Cautionary tale: this week I got a mailed invoice from a catalogue sales company. I had not heard of the company and had not purchased a Blackberry - I wasn’t even in the country when I was supposed to have ordered it, so I ignored the invoice. My Beloved, not being equipped with an “Ignore” button, calls the company. They say, ah yes, we thought it was suspicious when they gave us a delivery address different from the billing address, so we didn’t supply it. Then why, you may ask, if they didn’t supply it, did they bill me? Only one answer comes to my suspicious mind: because it was worth a try.

I had to go to Arezzo: having visited the natal homes of Dante and Boccaccio, I had to see that of the last of Italy’s immortal literary trio, Francesco Petrarca, known in English as Petrarch.
In keeping with his lifestyle, this little dwelling in the Via dell’ Orto was the most humble of the three.
Arezzo is Tuscany’s Tuscany: it lies in the region’s south-eastern corner so is close to the heart of Italy. It ticks all the boxes, starting around four millennia BC: Etruscan heritage, Roman amphitheatre, medieval ramparts, Gothic churches and Renaissance palazzi. The Piazza Grande (below) looks like a confused film set - and has been, e.g. The English Patient.
Chaucer was a Petrarch groupie, and came to Florence in 1373 hoping to see him, but I must admit I always found him the most difficult and least joyful of the three: Dante is thought-provoking and Boccaccio funny, but Petrarch is doleful. He was born in Arezzo in 1304 and left with his parents at the age of nine to follow the Papacy to Avignon, as good Catholics did. He studied law in Montpellier and entered the church, but was more interested in writing. The family retired to Florence, but Petrarch returned to Avignon in 1326, and the following year, at the age of 23, fell in love on sight with the beautiful Laura as she left a church in Avignon. He gave up religion and wanted to marry her, but she refused him on the very reasonable grounds that she was already married. While most men have a Laura or two in their lives, then move on, she became Petrarch’s passion and inspiration and he made rejection his life’s work, immortalising her in well over 300 poems.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks

Just back from a windy whirl in Tuscany – not intentionally so, but we chose the wrong time of the year. Florence has almost exactly the same latitude as Nice, but that is where the similarity ends. Nice is sheltered from the northern wind by the Alpes Maritimes, while Florence nurtures it and even gives it a special term of affection, the tramontana (across the mountains). And it is cold: the Florentinos are dressed like Eskimos and we like Lear; every other shop is a gelateria – for which I swear they don’t need refrigeration.
On the plus side, the cities – Florence, Siena and Arezzo - are relatively crowd-free: the “tribe of wretches”, as Lord Byron called them, are a throng but not yet a multitude. But in the end, survival took priority over research, and that for southern Tuscany has been postponed until the temperature improves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saint David

What about those Blues! (No, not Chelsea, Everton.) It’s the 119th minute –the last minute of extra time – and up steps Leighton Baines to take a free kick from outside the box. He curls it into the corner to take it to penalties. Dare I watch? (We don’t do well at penalty shoot-outs.) Then Phil hits the winner. A great team – and manager - performance against the west London billionaires who (a) are the FA Cup holders; (b) spent over £70 million on players last month; and (c), haven’t lost a cup game in three years. I thought I wasn’t into triumphalism in football – but please allow me this one: I don’t often get the chance. (We find out later that manager David Moyes had already decided that, should the game go to penalties, he would put Phil Neville in as taker of the fifth penalty - because he was sure Tim Howard would save one, so the fifth would be the most crucial one and he knew Phil could handle it.)
Reading next, at Goodison Park on March 1 - St. David’s Day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lord of the Lies

We were walking in the street the other day when we saw a bunch of gendarmes arresting a kid. When I say “bunch”, I mean there were even more of them than the usual phalanx: roughly six or seven cops and one docile teenager, handcuffed behind his back. As we watched this rather one-sided encounter – which looked a bit like Manchester United versus the Dagenham Girl Pipers at Old Trafford with Howard Webb refereeing - up screeched a van-load of reinforcements. As the spectators on the pavement gave ironic cheers and someone suggested they send for the US Cavalry, one of the cops broke away from the crime scene and ran over to confront us, shouting, “We’re not cowboys!” and miming the drawing of a pistol. I took it to mean that he thought overwhelming numerical superiority was better than shooting first and asking questions afterwards.
Then last night I saw Lord Blair of Boughton on TV, labelled as "Consultant on Strategic Policing". Wasn’t he the Prime Minister who said he had been advised by the Lord Chancellor that he could legally start a war? No, that was another Blair – he hasn’t been ennobled just yet. This was the police commissioner in charge when that guy was shot by Met police on the Underground. OK, you mean the Blair who said that de Menezes had been warned before he was shot?
Perhaps the gendarme got it right after all.

Ricky Swannell has trouble with her vowels. She’s the woman who reports on the Australian Open Tennis every morning from “Milbourne”: “Fidera wan the furst sit sucks throy…”. She has no problem with the “the”.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Côte de Blues

Lest I ever give the impression that Nice is a city of perpetual sunshine, let me come clean and show our street a couple of weeks ago. (If you never see my blog again it will mean that the Tourism Police have figured out where I am and zapped my PC.) Today, I hasten to add, it’s not like that: we will soon take our walk along the Promenade des Anglais in our shirtsleeves and find a sunny terrace on which to have lunch. (I think that’s what they told me to say.)

Stop me if you’ve heard this, but, disregarding the occasional blizzard, Nice is nice. It is the birthplace and capital city of the French Riviera. For a few centuries BC it was a trading centre for Phoenician merchantmen, who called it Nikaïa, after the Greek god of victory. When the Romans crossed the Alps in the first century BC, they established a hilltop city here whose ruins can still be seen in what is now the elegant residential suburb of Cimiez. The streets of Roman Cimiez still bear the traces of chariot wheels, but they have hip names (is hip still hip?), like Duke Ellington Alley, Dizzy Gillespie Way and Miles Davis Street – for today it is the home of the Nice Jazz Festival.
Matisse lived next door, and I used to wonder if he moved away for those ten torrid days in July.

France’s – and the Riviera’s - love affair with jazz is as old as jazz itself. While paddle steamers were carrying the new music up the Mississippi to the great eastern cities, GIs on their belated way to World War I carried in their knapsacks the first scratchy products of the burgeoning recording industry. New French words were coined or adopted - "rag-time" became "le temps de chiffon", and swinguer and le big band entered French dictionaries.

I wasn’t there at the time - I’m a relative rookie who’s been attending the Nice Jazz Festival for a mere 29 years. These days we sometimes walk up to Cimiez: the DG likes its fin de siècle architecture but not its exclusivity. But as we pass the Roman ruins I swear I hear music coming from the ancient stones: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Charlie Mingus, Kenton…. Those were the days before Artistes’ Villages and neanderthal security guards: then, the musicians used to eat with the fans. My kids and I would sit and chat with the likes of Michel Petrucciani and Lionel Hampton. Now they and Satchmo are just statues; the rest are street names.

Divided loyalties: Everton played West Ham yesterday, the beleaguered team at the bottom of the table and in need of the points, and supported by one of our dearest friends. Whom do you support, knowing he was going all the way to Liverpool to support them? “Let the better team win”, I prayed, “so long as it’s not the Hammers”. God in his wisdom gave the right result – two-all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

In for a Penny

He was born in Hailey, Idaho in 1885 and raised in Philadelphia. He moved to London in 1908, aged 23, where he lived for sixteen years, and in 1924, he and his English painter wife, Dorothy, moved to Rapallo, on the Italian Riviera.

He was Ezra Loomis Pound, a leading figure in the modernist literature movement, who edited and promoted the work of many of his contemporaries: W.B.Yeats, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot… His astute but ruthless editing - and enthusiastic patronage - were key to the success of Eliot’s The Wasteland. In beautiful Rapallo, writing and producing plays and concerts, he became a much-loved but slightly nutty local character, even as an enemy alien during the Second Word War.

On May 3, 1945, two days before the end of the war in Europe, he was visited by two armed local ex-partisans, who, saying that the Americans had offered a reward of half a million lire for his capture, arrested him. On May 24, two weeks after Germany had surrendered unconditionally, Pound was taken, under heavy military police guard and handcuffed to a burly military policeman, to the U.S. Army Disciplinary Training Centre near the village of Metato, a few miles north of Pisa. The word “Training” in its title is a euphemism: the DTC was a punishment camp. Ezra Pound had had no trial, he had been given access to a lawyer, but the lawyer failed to mention that he was working for the US Army. The instructions from Washington were concise: “Afford no preferential treatment” – and they were carried out to the letter. Pound’s “cell” was one of those reserved for the most dangerous criminals or those under sentence of death by execution. It was a six-feet-by-six wire cage with a concrete floor, open to the elements on all sides - an early rehearsal for Guantanamo Bay. He was the only civilian out of almost 4,000 military prisoners; he had no bed and was allowed no exercise or verbal communication; he was fully exposed to the Tuscan sun by day, and by night watched under floodlights.

Pound’s crime was that he had criticised his own government: not only that, but he had done so on Italian State Radio. The content of his talks, which were monitored by the FBI, was both anti-war and anti-Semitic, and the fact that he had agreed to talk solely on condition that each broadcast would be preceded by a statement that he would not say anything “contrary to his own conscience or his duties as an American citizen” was not taken in mitigation.

After more than two weeks under these harsh conditions, he finally cracked: “the raft broke and the waters came over me”, as he later wrote. He was taken to Washington to be tried for treason, the penalty for which was execution. Pound’s breakdown was probably a blessing, because psychiatrists decided he was mentally unfit to stand trial and he was transferred to a medical compound and given a bed, table and writing materials, and allowed exercise. Five months later, before being committed to a Washington insane asylum, he was allowed a visit from his wife and daughter. He languished there for the next twelve years, during which time he completed his famous Pisan Cantos.

He was released in 1958, following a vigorous campaign by his fellow-writers, including Eliot and Hemingway – who, in accepting his Nobel Prize for Literature, asked why Pound was still a prisoner. Pound returned to his beloved Rapallo, and later to Venice, where he died in 1972.

You might say that for speaking on a Fascist radio station, he should have been executed for treason. William (Lord Haw Haw) Joyce was. But try replacing Pound’s name with that of Gary McKinnon, the Asberger’s sufferer who hacked into the Pentagon computers from his bedroom just to see if he could; or that of Julian Assange, an Australian internet activist who thought Governments were too secretive. They and their ilk now face the self-righteous wrath of the land of the Free, but for what - eccentricity? During the same war, P. G. Wodehouse went to Berlin several times to speak on Fascist radio. He was knighted by the Queen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Return

Taxing times: 15.23 GMT today, to be precise. That’s when Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes acknowledged receipt of my Tax Return. I can now direct my creative talents elsewhere. So – good news – I won’t be spending my birthday in the Tower. Not only that, but he has promised me a substantial refund. Good news? Well, partly –because the HMIT, being more optimistic about my earning power than I was, had taxed me accordingly - in advance of course. In other words, he will be refunding a minuscule proportion of my own money. But at least the nightmare is all over until next January – made slightly more nightmarish than usual because my least favourite financial software vendor, Quicken, pulled the plug on my accounting package, and, since Microsoft already pulled the plug on theirs last year, I had to learn another one. So welcome to Bank Tree – a quarter the price of Quicken and much nicer people.

Now the bad news: according to the BBC, Everton’s Steven Pienaar is to join Tottenham for a fee of about £2.5m. Sorry, how much was that? “He's certainly not dear is he?" said Harry. I know Harry’s a pretty slick deal-maker, and I know midfielders come cheaper than strikers, even those who don’t strike very often and have earlier use-by dates, but 2.5million… Makes you wonder what ‘arry would have paid for Darren Bent – certainly not ten times that, as the former French teacher at my old school just did. But, like the HMIT and Bank Tree, much nicer people.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Umpire Strikes Back

Liverpool lost their match against Manchester United last week. They were the worse team, agreed, but they should not have lost the match. They lost it through a dubious penalty awarded to the home team (the referee having been the only spectator bamboozled by an obvious Berbatov dive), and the fact that Liverpool had only had ten men for most of the game. The referee who awarded the dubious penalty and reduced Liverpool to ten men, causing their captain to be suspended for the next three games, was the man who refereed the World Cup Final, Howard Webb.
Nothing new there: Rule 20.5 in the referees’ handbook decrees that bigger teams must get more penalties than smaller teams, especially on their home grounds. (Liverpool have “won” more penalties that any other Premiership team: Everton have been awarded one penalty against Liverpool in the last 73 years. Wolves haven’t had a single one this season.) Liverpool drew 2-all at home to Everton yesterday - one of their goals was a penalty.
We know that Captain Webb is way down the list of a pretty dire bunch, but right now, let’s not get into whether he was justified – except that his body language at the time indicated what politicians call a “U-turn”. Let’s not even get into whether a referee who, simply because he was a native of a neutral country, once refereed a World Cup Final - handing out a record 14 yellow cards in the process - should suddenly become all-seeing if not saintly. Surely a medal from the Queen would suffice?
No, this is about a Liverpool player called Ryan Babel, who saw a Photoshop mock-up of aforementioned Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt, thought it funny, and tweeted it. He has been subjected to the full venom of blazerdom and will be summoned to Lancaster Gate, placed in stocks in Hyde Park and pelted with fruit by buffoons called Platter or Blatini. The club has yet to decide his punishment – they are waiting for the Blazers to tell them what it is.
This just in: Babel was fined £10,000 today. Blazers do not do humour.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too many cooks...

The two-year blog sabbatical has passed: as, we hope, has the English winter – and so, I guess, have the loyal readers. I was tempted to post today on England’s decisive cricket victory, but everyone else is posting it, so I’ll just note a coincidence: my last post before the hiatus was about cricket and Alistair Cooke. So is this: in the final game of the recent Test Cricket series, the man of the match - and of the whole series - was Alistair Cook.

No turgid history of the last two years’ events, I promise – they were a great couple of years, but recounting them would resemble a Windows update: shut down when finished if not before. Briefly then, did some writing – articles, Memoir of my first 25 years, and Foreword to a new edition of Tobias Smollett’s (1766) Travels in France and Italy. Moved house to downtown Nice, (more about Nice later)had a stroke but recovered – thanks to TLC by the DG. We don’t have a panoramic sea view any more, but one more conducive to writing – a library. And started another book, this time Florence and Tuscany: A Literary Guide for Travellers – hence the photo of the Arno.
About to start the most creatively challenging activity of them all: the Tax Return, which has to be submitted by end January.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

It's not Cricket

Bleary-eyed again this morning, but happy - my two bottles of Meursault are safe. The Sydney Telegraph front page of a couple of weeks ago carried a full page headline across a picture of Peter Siddle, the Aussie fast bowler, which read, in huge caps: “OUR POM DISPOSAL EXPERT”.

I love it when they do that – it seems to bring out the normally dormant jolly-old English fighting spirit. What does Henry V say? “In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility – but when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger…” Another Oz journo gem was the “controversial no-ball” that kept Cook in the game. Why “controversial” when 50 million people around the world saw Beer bowl a no-ball – replayed many times over? The same 50 million, plus 40,000 at the SCG, saw that ball hit the ground on its way to Hughes which he tried to claim as a catch. Alistair looked at him disdainfully but didn't move. When it was replayed on the big screen, 10,000 cheered - the Barmy Army. 30,000 were in silent contrition.
Siddle’s contribution: 1 wicket for 98 runs; runs scored: O
Cook's contribution; runs scored: 189.
Hope we finish it off tonight – I can’t stay awake much longer.
Once more unto the breach, once more...

Monday, January 03, 2011

Nice is nice

This is where we used to live - Villefranche-sur-Mer, but we don't live there any more. We decided we would like to try some city living.
Forgive the baggy eyes, but play starts in Sydney each morning at 11.30 am in the England v. Oz “Ashes” series, which is 11.30pm at night here – and I have wagered two bottles of Meursault on the result. (By an amazing coincidence, cricket and Alistair Cooke were the topics subjects of the previous post, two years ago – and England’s leading batsman in the present series is called Alistair Cook - strange?)
We now live five miles eastwards
along the coast, which is nice.
Every good wish for 2011.