Hurricane, Bob Dylan

One of Bob’s best songs, from one of his best albums. This song includes one of his most outrageous rhymes, which has been in my head since I first heard it, so long ago.
1976 and sadly, it’s all still relevant today.


How news works

The entire England ODI squad has to self-isolate after some positive testing. A team put together in two days has two good WINS over Pakistan and it merits not a mention on the news. The England football team LOSE and it’s the only story.

My explanation is that cricket is not free-to-air on television.

Film Watch: Lagaan (2001)

My dentist recommended this Indian film, when we were talking about cricket. I had terrible trouble finding it because I thought, wrongly, that it was on Netflix. I eventually tracked it down on YouTube. I’d been told it was in English but it was Hindi with English subtitles. I think I watched the wrong version because there was far less dancing and singing than you see in the trailer below.

The film is set in a village at the end of the nineteenth century. The farmers fear they face starvation because the rains have failed. To make matters worse, the local ruler is forced by the British to raise taxes. When they protest, nasty Captain Russell issues a challenge: beat the British at cricket and be let off paying the new taxes. The hero, Bhuvan, agrees to this, to the horror of the villagers. They don’t know the game! They will lose everything! How could he be so reckless as to put their livelihoods at risk? He wins them over and then the Captain’s sister comes to the rescue. She wants to see fair play and so she, ‘the white lady’, offers to coach them, even after her brother has forbidden her to leave the cantonment. All this takes a long time and is rather slow but that’s me: I find a three-hour film too long.

Things liven up when we reach the match. It’s to be played over three days, one innings for each team. On march the British, immaculate in their whites, red caps and proper boots. The Indians shamble on, a very unprepossessing looking lot, in their everyday clothes and with home-made bats. The match is as tense as any modern game you could watch and everything comes down to the last ball… In the end, the winner is not England or India but cricket. Captain Nasty cheats but the (white) umpires are scrupulously fair and all the old colonels and dignitaries watching call out ‘well played!’ and applaud the Indian as well as the British team. You’d think they were at Lord’s.

I did enjoy the film, which is quite funny and of course, includes a love story. The moral? That cricket was the Raj’s greatest legacy to India?


A New Adam Faith

As is well known, I was in love with Adam when I was twelve and I still like his early records. Today, Liberal England posted this video. By 1974, when the record was made, I had long since moved on and thought of Adam as an actor rather than a singer. Here he is, though, pretty as ever. Not a great song but a curiosity which I’d never heard before.


Love Songs

I heard this on the radio just now and thought I’d share it. Amazingly, I got a pointless answer on Pointless with this very recording recently. If I’d been in the studio rather than on the sofa, I’d have won the jackpot! You’d think everyone would know such a wonderful song and singer.

I rarely hear the whole programme but I really like Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs. All wives are beautiful, all husbands caring, all parents wonderful; it’s a world of happy people with no bad news. The antidote to cynicism.

I write like …

There’s a thing going around called ‘I write like’ and you can find the link on Wikipedia. You put in a blog extract and the algorithms tell you which famous author (allegedly) you write like. You may be as surprised as I was to find that I write like Kurt Vonnegut! Unfortunately, it seems you can only share your badge and the information if you’re on Twitter, Tumblr or WordPress, none of which I belong to.
school stories

The Chalet School Goes On and On

As usual, I’m reading three books at once and currently, one of them is always a Chalet book.
Does the format of a book affect your reading? I’m devoted to my Kindle but often feel I must read a ‘real’ book. The text should be what matters, yet I do think there are differences (for me, anyway) between reading an e-book, a paperback or a hardback. Take the Chalet School books, for instance. I much prefer to read them in early, fat editions like the example shown below (just finished). Unfortunately, I don’t have many of them. With the earlier books, you get a frontis. by Nina K Brisley and white pages. The fifties reprints far too often have brown pages and are generally inferior in production quality. Could this be what makes me think them worse books?


The Swallows’ Flight, Hilary McKay

What a wonderful writer Hilary McKay is! I was drawn into this book from the first sentence and finished it almost at a sitting. The Skylarks’ War followed the Penrose family and their friends through the years before and during the First World War. Unlucky generation! The Swallows’ Flight takes them through the years between the wars and to the end of the Second. It begins though, in Germany, where two little boys called Erik and Hans become friends for life. Vanessa is married to surgeon Peter and they now have six children. Peter’s sister Clarry is teaching. Rupert is as charming and insouciant as ever and probably has quite an important government job, which he says nothing about. He and Clarry quarrel a lot and are obviously in love. Clarry’s friend Violet has an annoying son called Will and a girl, Ruby, whom he torments.

When war breaks out, it’s the Germans who are worst off. Erik and Hans are in the Luftwaffe and still best friends. They are not Nazis and not keen on killing people. These were the two I found myself most worried about. Their families live in Berlin but relocate to Munich with the help of mysterious ‘Onkel’, who correctly sees Berlin as a target. Meanwhile, Will goes off to France with the BEF, Rupert undertakes a secret mission, Clarry helps everyone as usual. It’s a musical chairs situation of people moving about all the time. Ruby becomes friends with Kate, Vanessa’s youngest and lives with that family for a while. Kate makes a conquest of difficult Grandfather, who has been persuaded to move in with Peter and Vanessa. By the end of the book, Erik and Hans have become part of the Penrose’s lives but no spoilers here. There’s also A Dog.

It’s made clear in a subtle way how evil the Nazi treatment of Jews was. In an afterword, Hilary McKay refers to this, saying it’s not her story to tell because she’s not Jewish. I can’t agree with that; do you have to be black to condemn apartheid? She also adds a glossary of terms and explains things modern children may not know about, like how pre-decimal money worked and why children had to be evacuated. This is not, though, in any way an educational or polemical book. Like her others, it shows that the most important things in life are family, friends and kindness to each other. I absolutely loved it and all the characters.
school stories

Revisiting the Chalet School

It must be years since I picked up a Chalet School book. Then, looking for something unchallenging to read, I started The School at the Chalet. Next thing I know, I’ve started a big re-read and am on the fifth book already. I’m hypercritical of these books, with their inconsistencies (even on the same page!), their bad French and German and potty rules (a bath and bed for a week for any girl who gets slightly wet). I’ve even written a prospectus, which begins:


Tired of your annoying daughters?
Pack them off to

But the fact is that I’m absolutely loving this read through. Somehow all that routine (put the plumeaux over the balcony to air, throw your cubicle curtains over the rail), is rather soothing. I have a complete set of the books (all sixty-two!) and in so many different editions that I have a scheme of scanning all the covers to put on Pinterest. Oh, I feel tired just thinking of it. Here’s one photo of dozens I already have because I’ve sold so many over the years. I don’t know where I’d find spare copies these days and I notice that prices are going up again. This series began in the 1920s and is still gaining new fans.