Sunday, 28 August 2016

Play review: The Winter's Tale

We saw the Cambridge Shakespseare festival's production in the grounds of Robinson. It rained while we were picnicing beforehand but was fine for the play. We? M, E and I. Robinson is quite a small venue - there were perhaps 8 rows of seats of 15 each. The grounds are surprisingly pleasant (for a red brick college, but actually the red bricks are well done). There's a bridge over the lily pond you can just see over the back of the stage; the bear chases Antigonus over it.

For reference, the words. Though ours was cut: Mamillius for example is not seen; nor is the Shepherd's son; not Autolycus. Unfortunately the cast list doesn't seem to be available which is a bit rubbish of them; the closest I can find is a casting site which lists some of them. They were all good; I was particularly impressed by Polixenes who managed his humour deftly - just enough connivance with the audience to make his implausible disguise when visiting the Shepherd's seem entirely natural and funny.

The story is, as with so many in Shakespeare, really rather weird. I think I've realised - as with ?King Lear? - that it is not so much implausible as compressed; you have to assume that the jealousy matures over time rather than being sudden as in the play.

The statue-coming-to-life at the end is also hard to understand. Perhaps it is meant to be ambiguous. Or perhaps he forgot to revise the early scenes. As wiki points out, the "obvious" interpretation of her being hidden away for 16 years isn't self-consistent.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

AS comment on Corbyn

This is a comment from a friend on fb. That's probably enough context for you to find out who, if you really want to, and he put it on fb so it isn't exactly secret. I liked it, particularly the start, so I'll copy it here.

I'm going to have to reply in more detail later for time/life reasons.
In short, I think
(a) Corbyn is a lightweight stuck in student politics. He can't react to events beyond giving a standard angry student speech.
(b) Many of his simplistic views are just knee-jerk anti-establishment/anti-capitalism/anti-USA, and are nonsense in terms of actual national policy (apart from often being plain immoral).
(c) He often has to be prompted and helped to say vaguely sensible things because he has no skills beyond student-politics rhetoric.
(d) When he backtracks over some nonsense he has uttered, he does so in a completely dishonest way.
(e) He pretends to be peace-loving and in favour of kinder, gentler politics, but to the extent this is true at all, it is completely subordinate to his other naive associations. E.g., he really was friends with the IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Chavez, Maduro, Iran etc and really did sympathise with or defend Milosevic, Hoxha, Gaddafi, etc., and these people/organisations are worse than he would have you believe. Basically these sorts of accusations against him are largely true and it's all the denials that are stretching the truth.
(f) There really is some kind of Labour antisemitism problem, and Corbyn is part of it. He only cares about it to the extent that it makes him looks bad. In fact he encourages it by his friendships and associations with the worst kind of antisemites and his evasive and dishonest answers. He rarely gets questioned very accurately or strongly, which lets his devotees think he is a nice man being bullied. (This is a repeating pattern for other criticisms.)
(g) His EU referendum campaign was a disgrace, and he, or his team, probably actively sabotaged it. By his actions and inactions, he lost millions of working class voters to UKIP and then claimed a 63% vote for Remain out of the rump Labour vote that hadn't actually defected to UKIP was some kind of success. He wanted to invoke Article 50 immediately, which would have been a disaster (which even he admits now). Either he is completely clueless or he really wanted out of the EU. My money is firmly on both.
(h) After a year we don't actually have any concrete policies. E.g., he has intimated he wanted to withdraw from NATO, but then seemingly backtracked saying there wasn't the will. His left wing economic gurus have abandoned him saying that they had wanted to help, but his policies make no sense or are nonexistent beyond being "anti-austerity".
(i) Momentum has a thuggish element, and Corbyn will not clamp down on this because it is to his advantage.
(j) His close advisors are as bad or worse than he is, e.g., John McDonnell and the Stalinist-sympathising Seumas Milne.
Unfortunately it takes a long time to justify these statements in a way that convinces Corbyn supporters, because (in my experience) they won't believe anything bad about him that isn't proved to 100% certainty. This isn't helped by the fact that in true Orwellian style he has erased his past: he has purged all of his personal website from more than a year or so ago (e.g., his statement on how wonderful Venezuela is is now strangely absent), also seeing to it that the copies in were removed (so hard to argue this is just a Spring clean), and also purged the colourful back catalogue from the STWC website (he was the STWC Chair until recently). He has even removed the Labour policy document from last year. Since he wasn't particularly well-known before he become Labour leader, there aren't copies of his speeches lying around the internet. The most definitive remaining sources are YouTube videos of his speeches and direct quotations in newspapers and journals, but these are time-consuming to track down. (I could try to justify the above in piecemeal fashion, though this isn't really in the spirit of the Facebook timescale of a day or so.)

Not by AS, but notes on "traingate".

The story, as I recall it: Corbyn gets on a train, and is filmed sitting on the floor - man o' the people style - saying how terrible it is that trains are crowded. Fine you might say: just put the price up, though that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.

However, it then turns out he has been telling porkies. See Aunty. In very many ways.

* in the "original" Guardian article (archive) we have the headline repeated in the text "Corbyn joins seatless commuters on floor for three-hour train journey". Now even his people admit that's false: he only sat on the floor for the first 45 minutes.
* as the Beeb makes clear, he walked past empty seats.
* even his people now admit he did this, their only excuse being he couldn't sit next to his wife. Somehow, there was no space to mention that originally.
* From the Beeb again: Sir Richard's intervention prompted Mr Corbyn's leadership campaign manager Sam Tarry to tell BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The bigger story here... it is quite astonishing that a tax exile of more than 10 years decides to lay into and make a political intervention which is essentially what this is on social media in a very public way." So what Corbyn is saying is that he should be free to lie about people, and they aren't allowed to reply. Scum.

FT: Jeremy Corbyn and the parable of the Virgin berth

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Norway: Hardangervidda

DSC_5666 Our plans for Monday were all carefully laid. Train from Oslo to Hardangervidda, probably, errm, the station just beyond Geilo, and walk up to the Tuva "turisthytte". But first, breakfast, and singing Happy Birthday to Miriam. Sadly I'd left her present - Exploding Kittens - at home. Miriam and I went off to find the DNT and buy some maps and get the "hut key" - which in the end we found no need for, the unguarded huts were just left open, never mind it is a nice souvenier - and cunningly went to their administrative offices not the public shop. However, the shop was nearby. However, it didn't open until 10. However, we happily sat in a nearby cafe and wrote up our diaries.

In the DNT we get an overall "route planning map" which turns out to be very useful, it covers all of southern Norway and usefully shows you which maps you need; and maps for Geilo and Finse, which cover our intended walk across the Hardangervidda. This is a semi-random choice based largely on my having been to Finse once cross-country skiing oh-so-many years ago with Mark Leonard, Anne-Marie Nuttall and Steve X.

The next step went well - we checked out of the hotel in good time, and strolled casually to the station, noticing as we did a number of what were probably Syrian refugees, some begging, some setting up for shoeshine. The first flaw was Daniel having left his watch at the hotel. Never mind: he has time - without too much panic - to dash back and get it. The second was more serious: the train was sold out. This is Norway: they are solid folk and would not think to cram excess people onto a train; when it is full, it is full. So is the next one. Oops. A helpful chap points out that buses go to Geilo, and so they do, but not obviously beyond. Anyway, as Agile folk we switch to a bus trip, and a somewhat later arrival. More seriously, our walk in to Tuva has just grown by several hours and our time available contracted by the same; so we need a hotel in Geilo; M picks us the grandiose Dr Holm's Hotel which is far more than we need but pleasant anyway. Notice that here and elsewhere I an not giving any prices. This is because Norway is expensive. The only way to survive with your sanity intact is to ignore prices. Their restaurant even has a proper genuine-French maitre d'.

The bus trip is fine. It has a loo. I read the Economist, look at the scenery - we get to see much the same as we would have from the train, indeed we stop at several station car parks along the way - and sleep.

Norway: arrival

Flight Gatwick to Oslo painless. Notable: M chose "valet parking" which worked well, ditto for the pickup. And we flew Norwegian, who were good. Here we are waiting for our gate,


Arriving in Oslo we were booked into the Karl Johann hotel. What trip advisor says about it is correct: it is good, very well and centrally located, but plain and has no air conditioning. Alas the weather choose to expend one of its few very pleasant days on our stay in Oslo instead of reserving it for the walks. Here's the view from our hotel.


We didn't do any serious exploration of Oslo, just soaked it up while there. Both Miriam and I had busy times at work, and I'd just finished bumps, so were quite content to unwind. Dinner sitting under the lime trees at Cafe Skansen was good.

Note: here and elsewhere I'll include diary scans - which are actually pix, as my scanner is so tedious to use - but you'll find those very hard to read I think; they are mainly for my future reference.

Norway 2016

This is the "title page" for our family holiday to Norway diary.

Coming soon(ish):

* Arrival in Oslo (done)
* Hardangervidda (begun)
* Bergen (to come)
* A bit of fjords (to come)
* Folgefonna (to come)

Trip outline: we flew from Gatwick to Oslo, stayed a night, took the bus to Geilo, walked in to the Tuva hytte and from there to Kraekkja to Kjeldebu to Dyranut, then bus to Bergen, where we spent four nights before going to Fonnabu hytte on the Folgefonna ice cap; then home.

Knockout Whist tournament results: Miranda wins with 140, then Daniel 151 me 158 Miriam 171.

My own packing list (compare to the one for the Stubai in 2015) is below.


Book: Hayek: Law, Legislation and Liberty. Heavyweight in both senses, but when it came to it I chose to carry it.
Book: Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop. Inherited from Miranda. Preferred Hayek.
Diary: new red Moleskine, plus propelling pencil.
Maps: Finse, Geilo, Folgefonna, and the planning map. Norway overall, and the Bergen map.
Little blue waterproof bag: passports, plasters (which I forgot were in there).
Wodge of Kroner.
Red Exped waterproof, used as : carry-on, daysac, around-town sac, inner dry liner.
Tee shirts: large white Brighton marathon, "technical" A'dam marathon, Chesterton rowing. And one other "respectable" one to wear. Should have dropped the large white.
Three pairs underpants: one day, one night, one spare. About right.
Socks: thin, time three. Could have been times two.
Long sleeved "pistachio" green for walking in. Good.
Coat: standard fleece, not shown, and new green Rab raincoat.
Suntan lotion (not much used alas).
Mosquito repellent (not needed happily).
Fleece gloves that I cycle in, thin running / rowing / sculling gloves.
Floppy "sealskin" hat with wire brim.
Snood / Buff times three: new yellow because I lost the old, the old that I found, black.
Water bottle.
First aid kit.
Petzel (not really needed but deemed essential security).
My share of sponge bag: toothbrush, toothpaste, shower soap, scissors. Could have been pared back a bit.
Bergen turverlag mug.
Umbrella - not useful on this trip, should have omitted.
Spire 40 - my old faithful climbing sac, should have re-waterproofed or bought cover for.
Grey "little bag" for mosquito stuff, spare glasses, spare small plastic bags.
Wire for recharging Garmin watch.
Running / hut shoes.
Ski stick.
Silk sheet sleeping bag.
Towel, small.
Tracksters, times two: slinky and looser. Should have left one out.
Running shorts - marginal.
Spare shorts: should have omitted.
Coffee: good for taking to the huts.
Playing cards.
Phone, compass, whistle, Opinel, mini-Swiss-army-knife.
DNT hytte key, unused.
Plastic mug, mostly for protecting sac from ski sticks in transit.

I wrote a google doc with some plans for the trip. You're probably not allowed to look at it.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Diary of an injury: my back

Sigh, another injury diary. I suppose they'll get more frequent as I grow older, until they merge into permanence. This one is my back; not the first time I've hurt it; the last time was Sabaudia, and it took a week or more to recover.

This one started with a twinge at the ergs on Thursday. I can't now recall if I was slightly off when I got there or not: but it was raining-with-thunder, and suddenly we were erging instead of rowing. About half way through I definitely twinged - perhaps when on the sliders, its so easy to go up to ridiculous rates on those - and like a fool I didn't stop. Because as Stroke I felt obliged to be Strong in front of the young folk. Idiot.

Day one: an uncomfortable night, and hard to move next day; bending over tricky and done from the knees. Drove in instead of cycling, slow all day.

Day two (Sat): still very stiff and painful when getting up; hard to even sit without pain. But cycled into Waterstones with M. Skipped rowing, obvs. Late: found lying on the Red sofa helped, and was surprised when I got up at 10 pm to feel much better: movement without pain, joy.

Day three (Sun): somewhat annoyed to find that, although I'd slept much better, I'm back to movement with pain. But again, towards end of day and time on sofa, feel better.

Following days: gradual improvement. Again, lying on the sofa helps, time immobile in a chair at work doesn't. Drive in to work usually, although pushing down on the clutch  car feeling worse than I get in.

Tues: skip outing; I'm clearly not fit.

Weds: cycle in with Miranda, since I need to take her bike to Light Blue. This goes with no problems. Try a brief erg set to 1 at lunchtime: again, fine, even at the dizzy heights of 1:58. That's good, because I have an outing tomorrow.

Thurs: first outing since last Thursday. Ideally, I'd have given myself a few more days rest, and/or had a rather lighter outing (lock-n-reach, a few starts, two 500 m pieces). At another time of year, or if not stroke, I'd have done so. But since we're 3 weeks off bumps I gave it a go, having decided it would be OK, and it was.

Fri: last night set me back a little, but not much I think.

Sat: ha, overoptimism again. Thursday definitely set me back, so on Sat I just did the first lock of a 2-lock outing, and did that quite gingerly. We still did one rolling start though. In retrospect I should probably have skipped Thursday, but for the invisible peer pressure. Or perhaps, better said as self-pressure.

Sun: better. Did some gardening, and some beekeeping, but got Daniel to do the grass cutting and lifting. Lying flat on the sofa still pleasant.

Mon: (am) still a dull ache but much less in the way of twinge.

Tues: 14 km of outing in M1 with a 1800 m piece down the Time Race course goes OK. I'm not perfectly back to health but its close.

Weds: and I'm still OK in the morning. There's still some pain, but now its much closer to deep bruises reminding me they are still there. If I try to stand up from sitting for a while its hard to straighten up immediately. If I try to touch my toes I can nearly get to my ankles.

Thurs: outing: fine.

Sat: outing, three locks and two pieces, fine.

Sun: gardening, fine.

I'll end it there. The "fine"s above mean I did all those things without problems. However, my back still isn't perfect, but is now uninterestingly so.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Book review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted is a fantasy that would be a fairy tale were it pared down to the bone. I greatly liked it, and read it in a few sittings, rather stretching out my afternoons when I should have been in the garden.

There's lots of things I liked, that thinking back probably reflect the fairy-tale stuff. There's a king for example, but he's just The King most of the time, he only just about has a name. There's a knight-in-armour, who has a name, but who is effectively the Knight in Armour, well sort of. There's the valley, which might have a name but who cares; and there's the capital city, which didn't. But this is all good, because it contributes to the atmosphere. And there's a Wood, with no name but developing properties. The story centers around the Young Apprentice, sort of.

That's enough generic description and about as much flavour as I can give without giving it away. Only read on if you don't mind knowing the story.

The Young Heroine lives in a poor-but-happy house in a p-b-h village in a valley whose Lord Dragon is sort-of-terrible - he takes a girl as servant every ten years - but otherwise merely distant. Inevitably, he take Our Heroine instead of the Girl With All The Talents, for reasons initially unclear but eventually she realises, because she has Magic. Naturally He is haughty and unimpressed by her fumbling; naturally She is resentful and lonely in the Distant Tower. She fails to do Magic his way but slows grows in strength her way, a sort of Earthy, Messy, and possible Female sort of magic. Still, she is Apprentice, until he is called away and she has to deal, Alone, with the Growing Experience of fighting off The Wood. Later, she has to rescue the GWATT from The Wood, and again Grows; The Queen (for slightly hard-to-explain reasons, so I won't) and again Grows. This brings on the attentions of the KIA and so she has to travel to the City, but without The Dragon, so again she has to Grow. The Court is strange to her; she has to learn to Be Herself; to Solve Mysteries; and finally to Flee back to the Dragon for the Final Climatic Battle which turns out to be but one stage. The Final Unravelling is also Climatic but Unifying; Peace with The Wood is restored and those too broken to heal are given Rest.

Things that are slightly unsatisfactory but which I forgive: there's no clear reason why she is so powerful so young, or why her earthy magic so differs from the other's more bookish style; though there are hints that she is a throwback to a Baba Yaga-ish ancestor. Her house, village and valley are too uncomplicatedly happy and free of conflict; though that's also good, because there's no tedious messy details-for-the-sake-of-details stuff you'll find in The Eye of the World.