Showing posts from January, 2011

Notes and Observations

I have just come from a period in exile in Weston Super-Mare, a town in which the sky so often becomes slate grey, the sea slate grey and the atmosphere of the town slate grey, that you feel like you are living in a disused slate quarry.
Growing older in this culture is a process of experiencing a growing sense of victim-hood; one is increasingly viewed as the slowest in the herd.
I have just been watching Nick Cohen being interviewed by a rather appallingly prissy woman by the name of Deborah Orr on Youtube, 'Nick Cohen interviewed by Deborah Orr.' I tried to focus on the debate but in the end I had to give up, I could no longer put up with her rritating ‘excuse me’ style. It also made me loose patience with Cohen, a man I admire. I longed for a Christopher Hitchens/Gore Vidal style put down, which we don’t do so well in this country, good manners seem to prohibit, which is I suppose why I find it so refreshing when I encounter it.
I have been listening all morning to Rachman…

One will Do

When greeting my closest friend one of my first questions is invariably what are you reading at the moment? Indeed this strikes me as far better means of introduction than the more asinine and much ruder what do you do? Currently I am reading Gore Vidal’s memoir Palimpsest. A memoir if is any good ought to leave you feeling a little envious, a wish that you too could have met those people, been in that situation. With Gore however he has been successful in all that he has done, met everyone and been in every imaginably desirable situation, so that you are moved beyond envy into a state of credulous incredulity as he skips lightly from sitting by the pool with Princess Margaret to seducing Jack Kerouac. You know that he has done these things since it is a matter of record but are still left wondering at it all. It is also an immensely funny book, I have not laughed aloud so much since reading Scoop, and yes he knew Waugh, disliked him personally though enjoyed his writing. His descript…


Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner table test" argues Barones Warsi Co-chairman of the conservative party. BBC News 20/1/11

The term Islamaphobia has become a big bird now, it now sits squat upon the nest refusing to budge, it is here to stay. That said the Baroness needs to be made aware that in this country people are free to express dislike of any religion. I for one dislike all three monotheisms intensely and though it is a long time since I attended anything that could be remotely described as a ‘dinner party’ should I be invited I would feel free should the topic arise to give vent to this dislike. The Baroness describes this dislike as prejudice, i.e. an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. This may indeed be the case, though given that presumably she has not been present at these dinner parties how would she know? However should our hypothetically ignorant dinner party guest choose to disabuse the…

Puritans and Cavaliers

I cannot say I am particularly upset at the departure of Alan Johnson from the political stage, not being overly impressed by his appointment as shadow chancellor and even less so by his actual performance. I suppose that I ought to be more concerned since he is one of a dying breed, the working class Labour MP, a breed indeed becoming almost as rare as the working class Tory MP.Loosely speaking, speaking loosely an extremely pleasurable vice like smoking or swearing, there are two broad strands in British culture, the cavalier and the puritan, working class Labour MP’s having an unfortunate tendency to fall into the latter category. This puritan streak has a long history on the left and leads to such intolerant legislation as the smoking ban and whose proponents tend to see civil liberties as the sole concern of woolly Hampstead liberals out of touch with something called ‘the real world.’ There are of course extremely honourable exceptions, the most notable being Anuerin Bevan whose…


There is currently a 'localism' bill going through parliament purporting to support that wearied cliche the decentralisation of power and the passing control back into the hands of 'ordinary people.' It of course does no such thing but represents a major smokescreen behind which the dismantling and privatising of of local services is taking place. Along with the 'Big Society' it represents the Cameron fart, a lot of noise followed by an extremely unpleasant smell.

I am a long time supporter of decentralisation, of placing control of local services in the hands of local people, however such services have to be well resourced, decentralisation or to use the new buzz word 'localism' is not a cheap option. A really radical approach to dismantling central government power would have truly revolutionary implications as to how we view ourselves as citizens, our primary loyalty would become our neighbourhood, our locality, a place in which we could exercise rea…


Experts agreed and duly informed us that Tunisia represented the stable face of the Maghreb. It was the North African country with whom the EU was most anxious to establish warm trading relations, the proverbial basket into which the community came to place the majority of its eggs. True this was a police state, foreign reporters were denied access to the country and power was concentrated in a small mafia style family unit, but still a blind eye could be turned to these things in return for the invaluable prize of stability.
I listened to one such expert on Sunday, an ex ambassador barely able to conceal his anger at the mobs on the streets busy unravelling this elaborately woven fiction. 'They must stop the looting!' he intoned. The track record of these people, from CIA analysts to spooks and diplomats from London to Paris and Brussels, to the gurus that inform think tanks is so abysmal that I wonder that anyone takes them in the least bit seriously any more. Of course they…

I Am Back

I have been away, for some stories about my absence and the reasons behind watch this space, but like Macarthur in the Philippines I am back. My apologies to my few regular readers and greetings to my new ones, in the coming months I hope to expand and develop this blog. So for now all I can say is it is good to be back.
Alex Talbot January 14th 2011