I, Doll


Barbie’s more interesting cousin

It’s all très Biblical, somehow. I confess to not being completely au fait with ya actual Old Testament but I’m fairly sure Idols are discussed beneath curled lips.

Listening to a piece on the radio about self-portraiture recently, it struck the neurons quite forcibly that in light of the disappearance of a Deity from cultural life, we’ve embraced Self as God: each of us at the centre of our universe demanding everyone else to pay homage … or an entrance fee.

Obviously it’s a phase: it’ll pass. But until then, we’re going to have to endure self-dissections that peel back intellect, dreams, imaginings, compassion usw such as to expose the plastic beneath.

Is this a Good? Is this to be recommended to children for whom the world probably isn’t a thing of wonder as it was for tots a while back. Our culture has chosen to sexualize children inflicting on them self-consciousness. Is that a Good, a kindness?

The palate of solipsistic narcissism from which we colour and texture waking hours will doubtless dull quite soon in virtue of its vacuity. Until then, how is courtesy extended when ‘it’s all about me me me’ or how can understanding be flourished when demanding that others ‘listen to us us us’?

What are your thoughts? she quipped rhetorically.

Rembrandt self-portraiture always seems an exploration of Light and Depth and Humanity, those invisible traceries which echo through life. Two Circles, painted in 1665 doesn’t scream Me Me Me: it murmurs Look, Listen, Marvel.

Carry on keeping calm


Wording by AP Waterfield

Round about now* is the Eightieth anniversary of the Ministry of Information (MOI) stiffening the sinews through national propaganda by sturdy encouragement to Keep calm and Carry on.

Located in the viscera of Senate House, that scintillating zigarat on Malet Street which now is the administrative core of University of London, three morale boosting posters were created in the build-up to World War II (yet subsequently largely unused and those printed were pulped to assist in the paper shortage. The other two were ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution; Will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril; Defend it with all Your Might). *sometime between 28.vi & 6.vii.39

By virtue of a Humean contiguity of ideas, it struck the grey matter that creators of the Carry On films might have taken their idea from that MOI morale booster.

The poster’s sentiment has dated far better.

The first of the 33 films was Carry On Sergeant, made in 1958. Peter Rogers, director and Norman Hudis, chief writer served in the war and must have been aware of the aphorism: adding Keep Calm before most of the film titles – apart perhaps from Screaming – maintains sense. [Puzzling & relieving how the premise of that franchise of films seems so frantically alien and dated.]

Mary & Stuart Manley, owners of Barter Books at Alnwick have the credit for beaming it once more into public consciousness, having found the ancient poster qua rallying cry in a box. The ripples from deciding to hang it up in their store are still to calm.

Five of the series revolved round military themes

As an aside, it seems Carry on Camping at Glasto this year is unlikely to be blighted by rain with Organizers urging Festival-goers to drink plenty of water and protect heads and skin. Yes: do.

Air and grace


© Cat Morley                                                        Risings above Battersea Park

The other morning afforded a cheerful happenstance of co-incidence: one of those wondrous, inexplicable collision of events involving hot air and gracious floatings.

Owing to a head injury many years ago, I don’t dream: the result of which is that I rise early. When the air’s clear and the birds sing, it is impossible not to go and walk amid nature. But on that morning, that particular 9.vi.19 morning, some strange force held me back from leaving directly once teeth were brushed.

Around six minutes after closing the front door, the midst of a wild meadow is reached. My path takes me East then almost immediately North. That delay now appears a miraculous gift as had I been even a minute earlier, it would have been too early, thus missing the majestic silent glidings into my frame of view by thirty+ Balloons wafting Eastwards, south of the River.

The Balloon Regatta has billowed annually since 2015, weather permitting, and this year raised funds for Onside Youth Zones, Samaritans and Place2Be.

Yeah: hoo noo? It is such a glorious peach of support for The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, the fund embraced annually by holders of this august office.

On this Solstice Morning, floating in splendid imaginings through redeemed Dawn air, rather than lament the shortening days from here on in, I shall attempt to cartwheel through dew in celebration of nature’s sunny miracle and the universal modality we maieut.

Image: Reuters                                                                That boot was a bizarre spectacle from a distance of around seven miles but the whole effect was a magical and mysterious site for sore eyes.

Launching from Battersea Park at who- knows-what- time, they made it to Elephant and Castle by 05.45 and seemingly wafted East to Greenwich.

Knight and Dame, you are the one


© The Daily Telegraph                                            Dame Agatha, showing off

With publication of the Birthday Honour’s List comes the thorny issue of EQuality. It highlights that scales have tipped and queries how to accommodate this refreshed EQulibrium. Let me clarify.

Since the dawn of our times, Knight-hoods have entitled Sir + first name to replace Mr/Dr/Prof/et al + surname. The wife of a Knight becomes Lady + surname. Remember, only daughters of an Earl, Marquis or Duke are styled Lady + first name: Lady Diana [Spencer] for instance.

Now that women have broken the surface to have their contributions recognized, Dame-hoods have increased in number. Their spouse, however, doesn’t seem to be accorded similar recognition.

Is that because it’s difficult to know the right term? In no world would it be accepted to address a couple as, say, Dame Agatha & Laddy Christie (mebbie a dodgy example in virtue she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1971, three years after her second husband, Max Mallowan, was knighted for services to Archeology: but you get the idea).

How then do we ensure a just balance? If women share their husband’s honour, should not a man be similarly acknowledged? And what happens in same-sex partnerships: how’d that work?

[In case you were wondering, it seems from archive pictures, Dames are presented with a grand medal rather than a sworded, regal tap on each shoulder while knealing.]

[[Spare a thought for Harold [1874 – 1961], husband of Dame Laura Knight. Both acclaimed portraitists, her work outshone his which, in the context of their times, was somehow miraculous.]]


From gov.uk:  In total 1,073 people have received an Honour as a Queen’s Birthday present:

  • 920 candidates have been selected at BEM, MBE and OBE level: 306 at BEM, 399 at MBE and 215 at OBE
  • 75% of the recipients are people who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity
  • 508 women are recognised in the List, representing 47% of the total
  • 0.4% of the successful candidates come from a BAME background
  • 5.9% of the successful candidates consider themselves to have a disability (under the Equality Act 2010)
  • 2.8% of recipients identified as being LGBT

Tradesman’s entrance


Tradesmen (9) by John Johnson in the ownership of the Bodleian

There are times when all one craves is a supercilious footman to peer down his nose and instruct the person at the door “Tradesmen round the back”.

As the country braces itself to rise in full height to dignify higher ideals of the #special relationship, it is possible to lose focus on its transitory players. Thus, we reflect on the curious mirroring of throwing toys from the pram which the peoples are doing inspired by the jejune reactions of their elected [and candidate] leaders.

The United Kingdom is not alone being in turmoil. Turns out it appears to be a function of the Millenium. If we look at neighbours near and far, none seems immune from expressing national displeasure. Seems that in leaving the Twentieth century behind, an appetite developed for refreshed engagement between rulers and ruled: the peasants have revolted and contrary to 1381’s precedent, are unlikely to re-submit to serfdom.

All of us are at the service of something beyond us in one way or another, whether the demons who drive gamblers, the merchants who drive trade, the oligarchs who swell their coffers, the families we wish to cherish and protect. What seems to have shifted and opened a space for dialogue is the acceptance that absolute power is an indication of the absolute corrupt-ness of its holder. And with that acceptance, it is discounted.

With the #Resident’s arrival through the Palace’s gilded front door° moments before the seventy fifth anniversary of D-Day’s Normandy beaches landings, perhaps there’s a chance to take a breath, listen to echos of the sacrifice others have made on our behalf and extend empathy for all those trapped in cycles of hellish atrophy.

© Akron Museum                                                     Put’s things in perspective

° Just learnt the #Residential party will land in the Palace back garden.

William, William …… wherefore art thou?


It seems perfectly apposite that in the month captured within “the lovely April of her Prime”, [Sonnet III c. 1609] the site of Shakespeare’s London residence has been identified.

After ten years research, dedicated theatre historian, Geoffrey Marsh has truffled out the precise location as      35 Great St Helen’s, EC3 at which was written, inter alia, Romeo and Juliet. Sends a positive thrill down the spine to discover the place whence sprang lines transplanting us to the Verona of 1597/98.

Appropriate, then, to view its location at a distance.

Our shot shows the Manhattanizing of the City. The gap between Tower 42 (NatWest Tower as was) on the right is separated from the thicket on the left by Bishopsgate. It is exactly at that point where St Helen’s church is sited. The graveyard over which his rooms looked is gone, the house too. But ground beneath our feet is the ground that once was beneath his. Ain’t that utterly scintillating?

St Helen’s encircled [with Spital Fields top right]                                                 Image courtesy of Geoffrey Marsh/Jack Delaney

Mr Marsh – director of the V&A’s Theatre and Performing Arts department – has delivered up to us a veritable time machine by virtue of Research. It is as compelling an ignition to the imagination as anything could be: like directly plugging into the socket of history. 

Shakespeare was a tenant of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers, miraculously still located in St Helen’s. 

Alas Romeo would now be hard pressed to wonder          “… what light through yonder window breaks?” given that over St Helen’s there loom not gothic glories to God but millennial mountains to mammon.

Wholly weak amid Holy Week


Remember when nostalgia was a 9-letter word? And a subtle knife was needed to cut through the smoke on the top deck and women knew that being groped or belittled was what had always happened so had, mutely, to endure its continuance?

The Assange business is an odd one. A man who claims to fight for truth yet runs from the opportunity to air the truth of his actions in a Swedish court room would appear conflicted.

Ages ago, we wrote on the emotional intelligence and rationality of teaching children how to behave with each other. [Here’s the link] Well now: it would seem there remains the need to spell out what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in virtue there are those who still don’t grasp the intolerable wrongness of their actions. We refer to it as being soooo last century.

From Greeks onwards (I’m sure that should be from Mesopotamians onwards but I don’t have the Akkadian) philosophers have promoted the idea that a Human Being is an End in themselves and ought never be used as a Means. Think how horrid it is when you’re used: it’s soiling. And while the reality is that it shrinks the wholly weak ab-user, it takes time for that process to manifest.

Although an unrepentant Agnostic, I’m hip to the genial intention of repentance, redemption, sacrifice and renewal. Let’s hope that the relief of truth proves too strong a pull for those burdened by their actions such as to redeem their forsaken souls.