… let me count the ways


Au bal: Manet’s thrilling expression of love’s sizzle   in the Courtaud Gallery’s collection

St Valentine’s Day: an apposite moment to reflect that in loving someone our most doting act is to set them free.

One in Three Hundred and Sixty five days seems insufficient an allowance in which publicly to express romantic love and eros. But hold a moment: erotic love is but one of many – parental love; friendship love and agapé, the love of God for humanity.

And while perhaps not so much today, the component parts of love still matter: kindfulness, generosity of spirit, affection, tenderness, cherishing endearment. Thus, perhaps this 0.3% of a year we are given license to yodel sonnets to our belovéd ought be seen in the context of competing claimants on our time. And yet …

The vulnerability of love is as piquant as its strength.

The thing it’s easy to forget is that being kind to oneself fosters the desire to be kind to others. Lovingness is a self-fulfilling prophesy and accepting everything we are gives others permission to do the same.

If you love someone or something this Valentine’s Day, set yourself free.


Common cents


Photograph by Mary Olive Edis (Mrs Galsworthy) of Dame Millicent Fawcett, circa 1910

What has changed in the Ninety years since universal suffrage or the Century since genteel anarchy in the UK led to women being permitted to vote in a graceless surrender to the inevitable? Little if it’s still an issue.

I long for it not to be and reflect on how men must view the increase in female-dominated business and political conversations / radio programmes / books / events / sports / plays / film / telly. I wonder if it occurs to them their weary exhaustion echos the centuries women have had to endure a world subjugated by men?

I saw a thing on telly – I don’t have one so it is note-worthy – and found it compelling and stirring in a way I don’t recall. It was directed by a woman. It struck me forcibly that men make art which necessarily will appeal to men. It explains a life-long dis-satisfaction with the majority of visual art; how / why / in what way could the preferred object of the male gaze appeal to women?

Men: if you can empathize with women’s lot over … well, the whole of history, you understand how tiresome it is to be stamped upon. If you were forced to: reconfigure how you think / pour yourself into uncomfortable clothes / undertake frantically dull domestic roles / endure unwelcome physical contact and inappropriate innuendo / publicly diminish the depth of your intellect so as not to outshine your spouse and all simply in virtue of women not understanding you, it seems reasonable to suppose you’d all have joined the lemmings long ago, dashing over the edge.

I long for the time gender is unremarkable. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another hundred years for men and women to agree to celebrate our equally different strengths.

Death of a sails man


Sweden’s flag, the colours are from Magnus III’s time: 1275, since you ask

Ingvar Kramprad has died, 75 years after creating IKEA.

Aged 17, he maximized the gift of dyslexia, flattening objections to his ambition and created the framework of IKEA – his initials and those of his home location.

I first came across the store in France, shocking my companion that I’d never heard of it. This was in ’83. It seemed weird to walk round a warehouse full of recognizable shapes, colour combinations and utensils I’d never seen in England but found ubiquitously in Sweden.

His thing was accessibility. Enabling all to have access to robust, enduring, ecologically sound furniture & utensils.

Contrary to popular opinion, Sweden is not a Utopia of egalitarianism. Class structure exists, sexism is rampant as is racism, homophobia and anti-semitism. I know: who knew? Well, any Swede who’s spent time away from this really bucolic land.

But the man, this modest humanitarian was not hewn from a Pine. He really was made of tested stuff which endures in virtue of its compassion.

According to a pal who also took his Stockholm bus to work, he travelled as all other commuters and carried a wee lunch pouch: no grand corporate dining for him.

I learned the store sells Kallas Kaviar (mumsfilibabba). Yesterday, I was impelled to get some – along with tunnbröd which alas wasn’t stocked so had to make do råg knäckebrot. Why yesterday?

I’m hoping it was in empathic acknowledgement at some preternatural level for his heroic achievements.

© IKEA                                                                             Ingvar Kamprad 1926 – 2018  As practically every one sails in Sweden, the flag floats everywhere


Relocating Dodekathon for mere mortals


Hellenistic period Pentelic marble possessed by The Walters Museum Procession of Twelve Gods and Goddesses
L to R: Hestia of the hearth; Hermes, messenger of the gods; Aphrodite of love and beauty; Ares of war; Demeter of agriculture; Hephaestus of fire; Hera, queen of the gods; Poseidon of the sea; Athena of wisdom and the arts; Zeus, king of the gods; Artemis of the hunt and moon; Apollo of the sun

Mount Olympus, gazing East over the Aegean, was held as home of the Twelve Greek Gods. The highest of Greek peaks, this geological phenomenon is symbolic of how the mighty rise and keep separate from those they attempt to control.

Davos: this week along the valley between Liechtenstein and St Moritz, the great, the good and the downright embarrassing gather to press the flesh, forge alliances and attempt to assert their will over their peers.

This annual jamboree or World Economic Forum matters in virtue of what is said from the depth of armchairs set before roaring fires. The conversations are taken back across the world and transformed into action.

What have they (we) to learn from the Ancients? The thing that stares us in the face is balance. When Olympians wrested power from Titans to swan around Olympus, Gods were equal in number to Goddesses. Each played to and were recognized for their strength.

With that in mind, if today were your 18th Birthday, what classic epithet would helpfully focus your gaze to the future? I heard this said by hefty hard-man Ray Winstone while portraying a King:                                                                          Listen to your conscience: it is the voice of God.


Image                                        Mount Olympus as Odysseus would have seen it

TW3 vs DW3


Album cover of his 1965 masterpiece

2  4  6  8: time to trans-substantiate

This line from Tom Lehrer’s Vatican Rag is so splendidly offensive, of such magnificent macabre merit, yet manages to tell it all.

Professor Lehrer, mathematics don while gracing lecture theatres at MIT, Harvard, UoC and Wellesley in the Fifties and Sixties, responded to his other calling by swooshing the pithiest of satirical sythings. Via jaundiced cultural critique he grated political rind from political rumps.

You need to be a millennial to have an excuse not to know his work: the reason we’ve not illustrated this Blogos with a portrait of the genius rests in virtue there ain’t one. Sure, when he was at the height of his fame; but now? Nada. A private man.

[In the Sixties, he’d worked on TW3 – or That Was The Week That Was – as had two guests on my earlier programme. It seems I thought to persuade whomever answered the phone this tenuousness was sufficient to merit a dialogue, at least.]

Which brings me to the kernel. Having received no response to a letter inviting him to a broadcast, I called a number thinking to speak with his office. Lo: the man himself answered.

The conversation was conducted on his part with infinite civility and pragmatic certainty that he would not be in dialogue with anyone on the radio for the reason he let his work speak. A killer argument. Neither then nor now can I muster a counter to its simplicity.

What wouldn’t I give to listen to his take on the #Resident; what wouldn’t we all sacrifice to have a scintilla of that lazer-like vision cut through to the very marrow of what did we do to deserve what we have



© Getty                                                    Suzanne Lenglen in flying form, 1926

You know those occasions when the words you want to write are unforthcoming? No matter how you approach it, the idea upper most refuses to budge and sits like an angry spider up in the apex of your mind, just glaring?

Well, such is the case with the intended rounding off this depleting year.

To which end, rather than whinge and whine, we look ahead in the hope to get the year off to a flying start.

As I grew up, 2018 was the telephone number. Flux of life mandates it waxed in girth and now no-one remembers the streams of locationless figures, reminiscent of π – pi.

Yet it is this flux which may save Hope from Despair’s greedy arms. The world turns, the air redeems in the darkness of night, each new day an end of yesterday. In short, we start afresh.

Madeleine Baird Materials wishes all readers of these pages, all clients of the business, all new-comers to emotional intelligence bon courage for a bold and thrilling year ahead.

We’re counting on being the change we want to see.

Stop press: rainbow forced to add colours


© Historic England                                                   The trench yielded its treasure in double-quick time in virtue of Philippa Langley’s intuitively informed academic research

Historic England has slapped a preservation order – of sorts – onto the Leicester car park under which were found the mortal remains of Richard of York, the Third king of that name and last Plantagenet to rule the realm.

We must thank Scots screenwriter and historian Philippa Langley and Richard III Society for marking the spot with an X. Indeed, that he was found and the manner of the finding is a gLorious tale and one to which we shall doubtless return.

What re-enters my mutterings list, having heard the news this morning, is that of the place of his burial.

Goodness knows his Sixteenth century press painted him in the very blackest of colours and it does seem as though he were further blighted with a misshapen spine. But he was a king, a Plantagenet, from York. Why was he not returned there?

Ptolemy slid Alexander into a cask of honey and brought him back from Persia to – OK, Egypt when it ought to have been Macedonia if we’re going to be picky; … rather than go on ad nauseam the point it seems important to make is fallen heroes ought not be lost to their people.

Added to which, it means we must find one alternate and one further colour of the rainbow so as to enrich the mnemonic: Richard of York got buried in vong place.

Think of the cruel confusion we’ll inflict on children learning the colours of the rainbow if this travesty goes unchallenged.