Monday, 2 February 2009

Monday 02/02/09

I’ve found some of David Lowe’s music on YouTube. I Know Jayne and Dreamcatcher (the last one being very Moby). Wish I could find ‘Designer Jazz’ for you – but this will have to suffice.

You know the Rent-a-Peer thing and all the corruption stories? Ken Clarke is quoted as saying that to take money to alter legislation for the benefit of people paying you a fee is corruption. I thought that was called politics, although I get what he’s aiming at. It all depends on the size of your constituency – or in the case of the Lords, the size of the bung.

It’s strange how people achieve cult status whilst remaining relatively unknown. John Martyn, the musician and guitarist who died last week, is being lauded by all the Sunday papers and various commentators. Has anyone ever heard of the chap before? Can’t say I recall his name or any of his music. Looked him up on Wiki and am still none-the-wiser. It’s not even as if I’ve been living in a cave with Obama Bin Laden for the last 30 years either.

John Updike also died. While I’m more familiar with Updike’s name, I can honestly say, hand-on-heart, that I can’t name a single one of his books, much less say I’ve read one. It was only after looking him up that I realised he’d written The Witches of Eastwick - and the only reason I’m familiar with that title is by virtue of the film. Again, it’s not as if I’m not well read. It could be, however, that I’m not a great fan of the novel (especially the Great American Novel), it being more the kind of territory that the female of the species inhabits.

I suppose these people’s status could come down to their huge influence on those who create more popular music and writing. You could say Martyn was a musician’s musician and Updike was a writer’s writer, and they influenced the more popular proponents of those art forms. Basically it must come down to the artist’s relationship with the audience – in popular art (be it music or literature) the relationship of the audience to the artist is passive and they are spoon-fed (mainly rubbish); in good art the relationship it is more active in that the audience has to invest something of themselves – an emotion or some thought – in the work. I could be talking complete, pretentious bollocks though.

Talking of pretentious bollocks, I’m glad to see Roger McGough is being touted as the favourite to assume the mantle of Poet Laureate. Both popular and good – in my humble and very subjective opinion.

We went to the Blue Zucchini in Tetbury again for a spot of late lunch yesterday. Unfortunately the baked cheese was off the menu, which upset my chakras no end and had my inner feng-shui all of a doo-dah.

The owners, Peter and Pernille, are 100% dedicated to the place and fully involve themselves with the customers, rather than lurking in the background and treating it as no more than a financial enterprise by hiring others to front it. If something on the menu or wine list is not available they will make up for it in some manner, be it through a free drink or dessert, which shows concern for, and empathy with, the punter and ensures (s)he will return at some future date. They deserve to succeed, and doubtless will. If only more businesses operated with the same concern for those paying their salaries.

I was greatly amused yesterday by the specials board which advertised the provenance of the meat they use. Read it to the bottom and bear in mind that Pernille (Mrs P) is Norwegian.

On the way to the restaurant I was giggling at Hay for some reason. She queried me and I told her she was my muse and that I found her ‘musing.

A Christian Community nurse, Caroline Petrie from Weston-super-Mare, has been suspended for offering to pray for a female patient's recovery after having put dressings on her legs. The patient mentioned the incident to another nurse who reported it to the health trust, with the bizarre result that the nurse in question was suspended without pay pending an enquiry. Now I may be an agnostic with atheist tendencies, but if some nurse offered to slaughter a chicken and recite a few ritual words on my behalf which she thought would aid recovery, I wouldn’t dream of being offended or complaining. If the nurse was naive enough to think it would make one iota of difference, the performance of the rituals would probably be more beneficial to her than me anyway. How anyone – even if of another faith – could be offended is beyond me. At least the woman was showing concern. There was a time when practically every nurse was a nun – it’s where the profession originated.

I see Cameroon has recruited Carol Vorderman to head a task force to assess teaching methods in England, how to tackle the "fear" of maths and if tests have got easier. Now given Vorderman’s class of degree (in engineering) can be derived by adding 2 and 2 and subtracting 1, I’m convinced that Cameroon’s choice has more to do with gaining PR and column inches than anything else. I ask myself whether populist, sound-bite initiatives like this are really going to achieve anything in the long run.

The Welsh Assembly is seeking powers to compel service companies in Wales to provide their services bilingually. What a huge retrograde step that would be. Apparently only some 14% of the population speak Welsh on a daily basis, and less than 25% understand a word of it, so adding to the bureaucratic (and hence financial) burden for what is undeniably a minority seems totally daft – especially in today’s economic climate. Driving through Wales is a bloody nightmare due to traffic slowing to a crawl as confused drivers try to disentangle the English from an unintelligible mass of dissonant consonants on road signs.

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