Monday, September 28, 2009

Book learning #55

The Lion and the Unicorn; Socialism and the English Genius by George Orwell.

If it's autumn, it's Orwell. This particular book is an old favourite, one of the very few books that I can reread.
Anyone interested in English society, culture, politics and history (or any one of the aforementioned) should read this book.

It's Orwell's 'why we fight', his perspective on the England of 1940, what's worth fighting for and what should be swept away at the next possible opportunity. I've been fascinated by it since I first read it over twenty years ago and whilst aspects of it are clearly dated, enough of it still makes sense when thinking about modern Britain (Orwell, the consumate Englishman, never refers to Britain throughout the book).

One of the things I appreciate about Orwell, which comes through in this book, is his own pragmatic approach to socialism and patriotism, the two are compatible and  should be regarded alongside each other. He decries the right's ability to hijack patriotic feelings in order to pursue capitalist economic policies. 

I could go on.

I have recommended this book to people (my wife included) who have looked upon the UK from the outside, some of them read it, appreciated it, but for others it seemed to not quite give them what they were looking for, then I realised, the audience Orwell was aiming for was the English working classes/reading classes of the 1940s. It's not a guidebook in that sense.

This book still means something to me as someone who cares deeply about the cultural, economic and political future of the UK, less of a naked patriot than I used to be (except when the World Cup rolls along) but still in love with the old girl all the same.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't ever say trying to renew your car insurance isn't fun or exciting.

I call the original insurance company after having spectacularly dumped them following a dalliance with an internet bargain site.

"Hi, I er, cancelled my policy and incurred a tonne of charges on Saturday. Any chance I can restore my original policy, get a refund on the charges and continue cover on my new vehicle like nothing ever happened?"

Insurance lady "Let's see"

Me " It's nothing personal"

IL "Oh, I'm taking this personally, I'm so upset right now that I'll go home tonight and cry and cry and then I'll drink a bottle of wine or three and then perhaps do something stupid like kill myself. I'm that upset and it'll be your fault".

She actually said that.

She proceeds to go over my details, my wife's details and certain aspects of our personal life.

IL "Right, you want to transfer from a Peugeot 106 to a Vauxhall Zafira?"

Me "Yeah, we're expecting twins"

IL "Umm, That would be fun in a 106"

Me "Yeah, hence the upgrade to the Zafira" (DUUUH!!)

IL " I see it's your wife's birthday soon, that's nice"

Me "Yep, better get her something nice"

IL "Diamonds".

Me "I'm haggling for cheaper car insurance, I used to drive an old Peugeot and you think I can afford diamonds?"

IL " Call it a woman's instinct, she'll love them"

Me " No way! Not now"

IL "Find a way"

Needless to say I was right to flirt with the internet, even following the charges and fees for breaking a contract I still ended up a tenner better off.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Buy my house

Wanna own the home of a blogging legend?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book learning #54

Paris, THe secret history. Andrew Hussey.

Well, This just adds another brick in my tower of admiration for the world of public libraries.

In a state of literary ennui, I was browsing the shelves of the local (and quite fantastic) local library when I came across this. It came home with me. I liked it.

Beginning with the prehistoric stuff and moving through the Romano-Gaulish history (most of which I learned from Asterix and was delighted to discover from a real book that so much of what Asterix had taught me was true) and moving through some disgusting medieval developments, sketchy seventeenth century intruigue, the great French Kings, the 1789 revolution, Napoleon, Commune, World Wars and 1968.

Thoroughly readable, entertaining and really, very sexy, this was a good read. I've known Paris down the years, after New York , London and Norwich* it must be my favourite city.

*Favourite cities. In order.

1.New York
2.Brooklyn (keeping the dream alive!)
7.Paris (OK, I misjudged this a bit)
10. Washington DC**

**Based on limited experience and OCD American history fixes.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

West Runton

Norfolk has a delightful and reasonably varied coastline. From my house you can get to dozens of beaches with different characters within an hours drive. This evening my dad, Henry and I drove up to West Runton, between Sheringham and Cromer. A car park, one of the world's friendliest teashops and a gorgeous beach. the weather was perfect, we were in heaven.

To the left of the groyne is the chalk beach, full of amazing chalk rockpools.

East, towards Sheringham, Wells and Holkham.

The silhouette is my dad.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I wasn't there that day. My wife was. 
She doesn't often talk about it.

In my family we have traditions around grief and loss, some of them make sense, some of them not so much. In the conventional world it seems appropriate to recall the first, fifth, tenth anniversaries and so on, to say the right things and lay the wreaths in the correct places. In my self it makes sense to cry when it feels right, to hug when it's needed, to laugh when things are funny and so on. I was always told that those in grief need support and memories long after the funeral, in the days and months after the mourners have left, that's when my mum would visit friends with cakes and appalling jokes and sit around and remember the loved and lost.

It feels a bit like that today. My thoughts have turned to those who still live with that day, everyday.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Random House

Spent too much time talking to estate agents today.

Man#1 told too many cutesy stories.
Lady talked for hours,  I lost the will to live.
Man#2 was great.

We're going with Man#1. It's about selling the house.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Some news

Don't know if it's


or girls

or possibly a mix but we've just been confirmed with twins.

I'm off to meet a man about a big car tomorrow evening.
The estate agents are coming round on Saturday.
I sense 2010 will be busy.