31 March 2009

WW - Warley Place

This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday. Warley Place is an abandoned garden not far from where I live

30 March 2009

The Tayside tragedian on the Bard


Immortal! William Shakespeare, there's none can you excel,
You have drawn out your characters remarkably well,
Which is delightful for to see enacted upon the stage
For instance, the love-sick Romeo, or Othello, in a rage;
His writings are a treasure, which the world cannot repay,
He was the greatest poet of the past or of the present day
Also the greatest dramatist, and is worthy of the name,
I'm afraid the world shall never look upon his like again.
His tragedy of Hamlet is moral and sublime,
And for purity of language, nothing can be more fine
For instance, to hear the fair Ophelia making her moan,
At her father's grave, sad and alone....
In his beautiful play, "As You Like It," one passage is very fine,
Just for instance in fhe forest of Arden, the language is sublime,
Where Orlando speaks of his Rosilind, most lovely and divine,
And no other poet I am sure has written anything more fine;
His language is spoken in the Church and by the Advocate at the bar,
Here and there and everywhere throughout the world afar;
His writings abound with gospel truths, moral and sublime,
And I'm sure in my opinion they are surpassing fine;
In his beautiful tragedy of Othello, one passage is very fine,
Just for instance where Cassio looses his lieutenancy
... By drinking too much wine;
And in grief he exclaims, "Oh! that men should put an
Enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains."
In his great tragedy of Richard the III, one passage is very fine
Where the Duchess of York invokes the aid of the Divine
For to protect her innocent babes from the murderer's uplifted hand,
And smite him powerless, and save her babes, I'm sure 'tis really grand.
Immortal! Bard of Avon, your writings are divine,
And will live in the memories of your admirers until the end of time;
Your plays are read in family circles with wonder and delight,
While seated around the fireside on a cold winter's night.

Ah utterly sublime!

Henry Allingham becomes oldest ever British man

According to the BBC , Henry Allingham, one of the last seven known surviving WWI veterans, has become the oldest ever British man. At 112 years and 296 days (and counting) he has lived longer than Welshman John Evans, who died in 1990 aged 112 years and 295 days.

Mr Allingham spent the day quietly at St Dunstan's care home for blind ex-service personnel near Brighton. Dennis Goodwin, his close friend and founder of the First World War Veterans' Association, said: "He has achieved another milestone in his long life and is raising the bar of longevity. "To be honest the last two years have been littered with milestones but this one is nice for him.

Mr Allingham, is the last founder member of the RAF and the sole survivor of the Battle of Jutland. He is the second oldest living man in the world, and the 15th oldest ever,

29 March 2009

Humour test

Your result for The 3 Variable Funny Test...

the Shock Jock

(67% dark, 42% spontaneous, 42% vulgar)

your humor style:

Your sense of humor is off-the-cuff and kind of gross. Is it is also
sinister, cynical, and vaguely threatening to the purer folks of this
world. You probably get off on that. You would cut a greasy fart, then blame it on your mom, and then just shrug when someone pointed out that she's dead.

Yours is hands-down the most outrageous sense of humor; you like things
trangressive and hardcore. It's highly likely (a) you have no limits (b) you have no scruples and (c) you have no job. Ironically, it's your type of humor that can make the biggest bucks in show business.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Howard Stern - Adam Sandler - Roseanne Barr


The 3-Variable Funny Test!
- it rules -

Take The 3 Variable Funny Test
at HelloQuizzy

Hmm the not wife would call my sense of humour puerile and vulgar... Not sure I like the comparison to Stern, Sandler and Barr though!but there you go... certainly not clean!

H/t to Colin Campbell for this one

And the winner of the Diagram prize 2009 is...

As usual it needs to be something special to win the Diagram prize for the oddest book title, especially when you are up against Baboon Metaphysics and Curbside Consultation, but this year’s winner is Philip M Parker and “The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais”.

Yesterday’s Guardian reported that the man who has described himself as "the most published author in the history of the planet", might just as easily have been nominated for his vast library of other books. If they had the necessary disposable income, who could resist the niche appeal of The 2007-2012 Outlook for Lemon-Flavoured Bottled Water in Japan, a snip at $495, or The 2007 Import and Export Market for Household Refrigerators in Czech Republic (just $112)?

Parker, achieves his prolific authorship thanks to his invention of a machine which writes books, creating them from internet and database searches. "It's an undoubtedly odd title," said Philip Stone, charts editor and awards administrator at the Bookseller (which runs the Diagram prize). "I think it's slightly controversial as it was written by a computer, but given the number of celebrity memoirs out there that are ghostwritten, I don't think it's too strange."

The book highlights, he said, "an area that perhaps we are all guilty of ignoring as we push our trolleys down supermarket aisles. What does the future hold for these items? Well, given that fromage frais normally comes in 60-gram containers, not 60-milligram, one would assume that the world outlook for 0.06-gram containers of fromage frais is pretty bleak. But I'm not willing to pay $795 to find out."

Fromage Frais... joins a selection of august winners including The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling, and The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today.

46 Today

Ach another birthday... This year there's been no celebrating or drinking. That's down to a heavy cast and painkillers that preclude alcohol. Still I got some nice Duchamp ties and enough money to get a studio lighting set.... Happy birthday to me!!!

28 March 2009

Musical diversions

Arcana - Le Serpent Rouge

Rajna - Kalos Irtes

Azam Ali - Spring Arives

Photo Hunt - Hands

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is hands. I haven't spent much time dealing with this subject. The photo was taken at the Rodin museum in Paris last year.

I still can't spend much time at the pc at the moment what with my leg being in plaster. I will try to get around to visit as many photohunters as I can.

27 March 2009

Conor Casby hands over more works

According to today’s Times Conor Casby, who painted the nude portraits of Brian Cowen,(aka BIFFO, the Big Ignorant F*cker From Offaly) which caused a furore in Ireland, has handed the police a series of other satirical works featuring the nation's politicians.

The other works that Mr Casby gave to detectives are said to be in similar vein and feature Bertie Ahern, Mr Cowen's predecessor, and Michael McDowell, the former Justice Minister.

Mr Casby's efforts may have found little favour with fine arts critics or the Taoiseach and his supporters, but opposition political parties renewed their attack on the Government yesterday and the issue was raised in the Irish parliament. Liz McManus, of Labour, told the Dáil: “The public interest will not be served by a national broadcaster bowing to political pressure. We live in a democracy where political satire is part and parcel of our democracy.”

Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, the biggest opposition party, described the reaction by the Government and the police to the paintings as “absolutely over the top”.

Mr Casby now appears to have gone into hiding. He was not at his home in Dublin yesterday and had taken a “personal day” from his work as leader of a programme to encourage potential early school-leavers to remain in education in the capital's inner-city.

Perhaps the Irish Government should give up and leave Casby alone. Cowan and his allies have hardly covered themselves in glory over this stupid episode, Somehow I can’t see BIFFO getting another term as Taoiseach after this foolishness.Still, it's a shame the other paintings were not displayed too!

Militants block polio vaccinations

The eradication of polio is not far off. The incidence of this crippling disease has reduced from 350,000 cases a year 20 years ago, last year there were just 1659 cases, most of which were in Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Although the figures for 2009 indicate a further reduction this year, this could be subverted by the ignorance and suspicion of cretinous militant islamist.

According the Telegraph Taliban militants in Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan have obstructed officials from vaccinating over 300,000 children. Militants have seized control of most of Swat and its capital, Mingora, and have extended their rule since striking a peace deal with the government and army earlier this year.

“There is a real emergency there. It is urgent to go in and vaccinate children,” said Dr Nima Abid, the Polio Team leader from the World Health Organisation in Pakistan. “Polio vaccination is effective in first three months of the year when virus transmission is lowest and so there is no interference with the vaccine virus,” said Dr Abid.

Militants had reportedly agreed to allow the vaccination program to take place as part of the peace agreements. However, they had reneged on their word and despite assiduous efforts made by the increasingly irrelevant local administration, no vaccinations have taken place.

“It’s a US tool to cut the population of the Muslims. It is against Islam that you take a medicine before the disease”, said, Muslim Khan, Swat’s Taliban spokesman, speaking by telephone.

Swat had recorded 4 cases of polio last year of the total 53 recorded by NWFP and the tribal areas. Pakistan had 118 cases in 2009.

Militants in the tribal areas of Bajaur and Mohmand have also opposed polio vaccinations.

It’s not the first time that Islamists have obstructed attempts to eradicate polio but their sheer idiocy continues to anger. Perhaps the bastards will do something decent and for once and evolve into a higher life form – an amoeba might not be out of their reach.


This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

26 March 2009

Upminster Windmill

his is the Upminster Windmill as it looked before planned renovation. Once this damned cast is off and I am mobile I will definitely go and see how it looks now.

Libel Threat

In the face of a libel threat from Patricia McKeever of Catholic Truth Scotland, I have deleted the comment thread from a post dated 14 October 2007

Guerillia BIFFO artist faces prosecution

One of Brian Cowan’s nicknames is BIFFO, not because of his uncanny likeness to the old Beano character but because it stands for “Big Ignorant F*cker From Offaly”. This sobriquet seems to be more and more appropriate given the reaction to the unflattering but satirical portraits of him that appeared recently in Dublin galleries

Today’s Times reports that the creator of the nude portraits faces prison yesterday after police discovered his identity. Conor Casby, 35, a Dublin secondary school teacher, has been credited with Biffo on the Bog and another portrait of the Taoiseach. Police have interviewed him and are preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Casby could be prosecuted for indecency, incitement to hatred and criminal damage - for hammering a nail into a wall of the National Gallery of Ireland. If convicted, he would face a heavy fine and possibly even a stint in jail. One, which was smuggled into the National Gallery, pictured the Irish leader on the toilet holding a toilet roll. It remained on display for 20 minutes before security took it down. The other painting, portraying the Taoiseach holding a pair of blue and white Y-fronts, was hung in the Royal Hibernian Academy.

The success of the stunt seemed to provide a welcome respite from the barrage of gloomy economic news, but the authorities took a different view. Will Hanafin, a producer at the Dublin radio station Today FM, said that Mr Casby had contacted him on Monday to confirm that he was the artist. He described the artist as “a very nice, meek and humble man who is freaked out by the reaction” to his creative endeavours. Once the artist's identity was revealed by the radio station the police arrived. A detective told him that he was under “pressure from on high ... the powers that be wanted it investigated”. Mr Casby later accompanied police officers voluntarily to a Garda station to be interviewed about the incidents in the galleries.

Fine Gael, the main opposition party, called the affair a “scandalous waste of resources” for detectives to be investigating “what amounted to a practical joke that offended the Taoiseach's ego”. Mr Casby said in a statement that he “would like to draw an end to this by offering the portraits to the highest bidder and donate the proceeds to charity”

The portraits have given many people a good laugh, albeit at the expense of Biffo. But then Biffo is a political leader and should thus expect more lampooning than reverence, especially in these harsh economic times. Mr Casby should be left alone and allowed to sell the paintings. That way some charity will be very happy even if Biffo isn’t.

25 March 2009

Brian Cowan - Taoiseach and sex god!

The people of Ireland are surely proud that their leader is not only the most competent politician in the whole of the western world but he is a sex god to boot!

What a majestic physique! what amazingly clean underwear! Brian we salute you.. PHWOOOAAARR!

For further information on the background to these paintings and the furore surrounding them I would suggest a visit to A Doubtful Egg. Also a trip to my fellow flannobrienophile Sean Jeating would be well worth it!

James McIntyre - Prophet

James McIntyre was truly the bard of cheese. In a single stroke he disproved G K Chesterton's statement that "poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese". Not only did he laud cheese of all types he had an eye for the future of cheesemaking and in one poem he prophesied the creation of the greatest piece of curdled milk of all:

Prophecy of a Ten Ton Cheese

Who hath prophetic vision sees
In future times a ten ton cheese,
Several companies could join
To furnish curd for great combine
More honor far than making gun
Of mighty size and many a ton.

Machine it could be made with ease
That could turn this monster cheese,
The greatest honour to our land
Would be this orb of finest brand,
Three hundred curd they would need squeeze
For to make this mammoth cheese.

So British lands could confederate
Three hundred provinces in one state,
When all in harmony agrees
To be pressed in one like this cheese,
Then one skillful hand could acquire
Power to move British empire.

But various curds must be combined
And each factory their curd must grind,
To blend harmonious in one
This great cheese of mighty span,
And uniform in quality
A glorious reality.

But it will need a powerful press
This cheese queen to caress,
And a large extent of charms
Hoop will encircle in its arms,
And we do not now despair,
But we shall see it at world's fair.

And view the people all agog, so
Excited o'er it in Chicago,
To seek fresh conquests queen of cheese
She may sail across the seas,
Where she would meet reception grand
From the warm hearts in old England.

To my knowledge McIntyre's prophesy has not been fulfilled - one day, perhaps, one day...

The double Hibakusha

Today’s Guardian carries a report about Tsutomu Yamaguchi, 93, who has become the first person to be certified as a survivor of both the Hiroshima and the Nagasaki bombs

Mr Yamaguchi had already been a certified "hibakusha," or radiation survivor, of the 9 August 1945 atomic bombing in Nagasaki. Now it has been confirmed that he also survived the attack on Hiroshima three days earlier. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on 6 August 1945. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. He then returned to his hometown of Nagasaki.

"As far as we know, he is the first one to be officially recognised as a survivor of atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki," said Nagasaki city official Toshiro Miyamoto. "It's such an unfortunate case, but it is possible that there are more people like him."

Yamaguchi is one of about 260,000 people who survived the attacks. Bombing survivors have developed various illnesses from radiation exposure, including cancer and liver illnesses. About 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

For once I have no pithy comment to make

24 March 2009

WW- Langtons

This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday is an 18th century building in Hornchurch. It is now used by the local council as a venue for wedding receptions... My sister had her wedding breakfast and party here back in 1983.

I can't spend much time at the pc at the moment what with my leg being in plaster. I will try to get around to visit as many WW participants as I can.

23 March 2009

Margaret Cavendish on the Spider

Margaret Cavendish (1623-73), Duchess of Newcastle and holder of the title "Mad Madge" ceturies before Madonna, was a prolific writer - Many find her word atrocious, others fnd itn sublime. Me? I reserve judgement. I say enjoy (or don't enjoy) the work of a fine Essex lass! Here is Mad Madge and her poem Of the spider:

The Spiders Housewifry no Webs doth spin,
To make her Cloath, but Ropes to hang Flies in.
Her Bowels are the Shop where Flax is found,
Her Body is the Wheele that goeth round.
A Wall her Distaff, where she sticks Thread on,
The Fingers are the Feet that pull it long.
And wheresoever she goes nere idle sits,
Nor wants a House, builds one with Ropes, and Nets.
Though it be not so strong, as Brick, and Stone,
Yet strong enough to beare light Bodies on.
Within this House the Female Spider lies,
The whilst the Male doth hunt abroad for Flies.
Nere leaves, till he the Flies gets in, and there
Intangles him within his subtle Snare.
Like Treacherous Host, which doth much welcome make,
Yet watches how his Guests Life he may take.

Still life with cast and zimmer frame

Perhaps it IS time to pimp my zimmer!

My foot might as well be in Belgium

The cast goes up to the top of my thigh... sighs

22 March 2009

Why Jams O' Donnell?

I was inspired to chose the name Jams O’ Donnell because of an episode in the Poor Mouth. In it the main character Bonaparte O’ Coonassa, is at his first day at school:

We all gathered in the schoolhouse. We all sat on benches, without a word or a sound for fear of the master. He cast his venomous eyes ever the room and they alighted on me where they stopped. By jove! I did not find his look pleasant while these two eyes were sifting me. After a while he directed a long yellow finger at me and said: “Phwat is yer nam?”

I did not understand what he said nor any other type of speech which is practised in foreign parts because I had only Gaelic as a mode of expression and as a protection against the difficulties of life. I could only stare at him, dumb with fear. I then saw a great fit of rage come over him and gradually increase exactly like a rain-cloud. I looked around timidly at the other boys. I heard a whisper at my back: “Your name he wants!”

My heart leaped with joy at this assistance and I was grateful to him who prompted me. I looked politely at the master and replied to him: “Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen, son of Thomas's Sarah, grand-daughter of John's Mary, grand-daughter of James, son of Dermot…”

Before I had uttered or half-uttered my name, a rabid bark issued from the master and he beckoned to me with his finger. By the time I had reached him, he had an oar in his grasp. Anger had come over him in a flood-tide at this stage and he had a businesslike grip of the oar in his two hands. He drew it over his shoulder and brought it down hard upon me with a swish of air, dealing me a destructive blow on the skull. I fainted from that blow but before I became totally unconscious I heard him scream:

“Yer nam, said he, is Jams O'Donnell!

So there you have it. I hope you sleep easier with this knowledge in your head. It’s like will never be there again….

Why the Poor Mouth?

Siting at the computer for any length of time is very uncomfortable so I am not overly keen to put together anything but short posts at present. Not being in the mood even for a short post I thought I would repost a couple of posts from over two years ago which explain why I call the blog the Poor Mouth and why I call myself Jams O Donnell:

The header above the title of this blog comes from a Gaelic expression An Beal Bocht or the poor mouth. To put on "poor mouth" means that you are exaggerating the direness of your situation in order to gain time or favour from creditors. It can also simply mean grumbling.

But why choose such an expression? I did so because I love the expression but also as a tribute to one of my favourite authors the late, great Irish novelist/humorist/civil servant, Flann O Brien. (Aka Brian O Nolan, aka Myles na gCopaleen).

Flann O'Brien

The Poor Mouth was originally published as An Beal Bocht in 1941, the only one of his novels to be written in Gaelic. It only appeared in English translation for the first time in 1973 – seven years after his death. I would have called the blog An Beal Bocht but someone had beaten me to that name

The Poor Mouth is set in the fictional village of Corkadoragha, a place which knows suffering an poverty in spades, It is a place were the torrential rains are more torrential, the squalor more squalid, the hopelessness more utterly hopeless than they are anywhere else in Ireland.

It is the story of Bonaparte O'Coonassa who, like the other characters spends the bulk of his time lamenting the fate of the Gaels whose lot it is to live a hard, miserable life. But it is certainly not a miserable book. It is very readable and very, very funny!

The Dalkey Archive Press edition of the Poor Mouth

It is a wonderful tale in which you learn about being a child of the ashes, Ambrose a pig the size of a house, Sitric O Sanassa (the excellence of his poverty was without comparison in all of Ireland) and the awful Sea Cat a harbinger of misfortune that looks uncannily like the island of Ireland. You also discover the origin of the name Jams O’ Donnell and why when an Irish person says calls you sir they could be insulting you!

O’Brien actually wrote the Poor Mouth as a parody of Irish literature such as Tomás O’Criomhthainn, whose work dwelt very much on the hardship of Gaelic life. In addition it was intended as a swipe at the patronising attitude of “Irish Irelanders” towards rural Gaelic speakers –as evidenced in one glorious scene where Gaelic enthusiasts mistake the grunting of a pig for melodious Irish simply because they cannot understand it! Needless to say it caused a storm when it was published.

Even if you have never heard of Tomas O Criomhtnainn and couldn’t care less about the attitude urban Gaelic enthusiasts towards the residents of the Gaeltacht, the Poor Mouth is a wonderful read. I would stongly recommend you find a copy of the book as its likes will certainly never be there again!

Further Reading

Gaelically Gaelic by Eric Mader-Lin (From Necessary Prose)

Flann O’Brien: A Postmodernist When It Was Neither Profitable Nor Popular by Robert Looby (At the Scriptorium website)

The No Bicycle Page

21 March 2009

Photo Hunt - Yellow

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is yellow. This is a gladiolus bloom from last year.

I can't spend much time at the pc at the moment what with my leg being in plaster. I will try to get around to visit as many photohunters as I can.

20 March 2009

Mimi - Heinrich Heine`

"I'm no proper bourgeois-kitten,
Cozy rooms I won't be needing,
On the roof, in open air,
It's a free cat's life I'm leading.

Summer nights, I'm rhapsodizing,
Up upon the rooftops stealing,
Music purrs and grrrs within me,
And I sing just what I'm feeling."

So she speaks. And from her bosom
Bridal songs are wildly surging,
Charming melodies that bring
Tomcat bachelors converging.

Tomcat bachelors converging,
Purring, grrring, snarling, mewing,
Here with Mimi to make music,
Love and drooling, ardent wooing.

These are not your virtuosos,
Who for fame do vainly jostle,
How profane! But these remain
Holy music's true apostles.

Instruments they don't require,
They themselves are flutes, violas,
Bellies are their kettledrums,
And for trumpets they have noses.

Voices now they raise in concert,
Mighty chorus, or duets; O
Those are fugues, like those of Bach
Or of Guido of Arezzo.

These are symphonies, audacious
Like caprices of Beethoven,
Even those of Berlioz,
Now surpassed in cat-commotion.

Magic tones of mystic power!
Rare, unequalled serenading!
They give Heaven shocks, convulsions,
And the stars themselves are fading.

When she hears the magic timbres,
The majestic cantilena,
So she veils her face with clouds,
Goddess of the moon, Selene.

Just that scandal-monger, aging
Primadonna Philomela,
Turns her nose up, sniffs, abuses
Mimi's singing - cold unfeeler!

All the same! They're making music,
Despite the envious Signora,
'Til appears on the horizon
Rosy smiling sprite, Aurora.

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

I must thank my dear fellow blogger Sean Jeating for sending this poem to me.

The last resting place of the man they couldn't hang

John Babbacombe Lee He was known as the “man they couldn’t hang”. In February 1885 he was sentenced to death for the murder of his employer Emma Keyse, a wealthy spinster from Babbacombe, Devon. Lee, a 20-year-old labourer, was described in court as “a depraved lunatic capable of smashing an old lady’s head with an axe, then slashing her throat with a knife”.

He became a celebrity when three attempts to hang him at Exeter Prison failed because the trap door of the scaffold jammed shut. After an appeal, the Home Secretary agreed it would be unfair to expect a man to “twice suffer the pangs of imminent death” and commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. He was eventually freed in 1907 after serving nearly 23 years in prison. a century the real fate of the notorious murderer John “Babbacombe” Lee remained a mystery.

For a brief period Lee traded on his notoriety, making personal appearances and even starring in a silent film but within a few years he had vanished into obscurity. There were rumours that he died in the workhouse in Tavistock According to the Times a historian has found Lee’s grave – in the USA.

Mike Holgate, from Torquay, Devon, had established that Lee had married in 1909 and deserted his pregnant wife and child in the workhouse in 1911. He emigrated to America with a woman falsely claiming to be his wife and died of heart failure in 1945 at the age of 80.

Mr Holgate tracked the convicted murderer’s eventual fate with the help of the Wisconsin Historical Society which found a record from 1939, when John Lee was alive and well at the age of 75. “It was then a matter of searching death certificates and newspaper cuttings until I found one that said he was buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee. He had been suffering from cardiac problems. Ten days after receiving a visit from his doctor he succumbed to heart failure at his home on March 19, 1945. “

Once again there you have it. While I never lost a second's sleep pondering his ultimate fate it is interesting to find out what happened to him after he cheated the gallows.

19 March 2009


This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

Nudie Cherie Blair painting for sale – a snip at £600k

Today’s Independent has an item about a painting if Cherie Blair that was made in 1972 by artists Euan Uglow. The painting, Striding Nude, Blue Dress, is on display at the Mayfair Art Gallery in London, with a price tag of £600,000.

A preliminary sketch is also on show at the Browse & Darby gallery and has been sold for £4,000. The Blairs are speculated to have bought the sketch but the gallery will not confirm: "It's the policy of the gallery that we keep our buyers' names secret. A lot of them don't want their names to be revealed," the gallery owner, Charles Bradstock, said. "Cherie Blair came before the private viewing to see them. She was interested, because she had never seen them before. They brought back memories."

Uglow, who died in 2000 aged 68, was noted for his slow, methodical way of working, which involved taking dozens of measurements of his subjects. He specified that the drawing and painting should not go on public show while Tony Blair was prime minister. Cherie Booth met Uglow through the future lord chancellor Derry Irvine, who was head of the chambers where she and Tony Blair received their barrister training. The Blairs' oldest child is named Euan.

The drawing dates from 1972, when its subject was aged 22. It was made soon after she had graduated from the LSE and depicts a young woman's naked body, although Uglow did not sketch the subject's head. The proof that Cherie Booth was the model is that her name is written alongside the drawing, with what was then her London home telephone number. Uglow used the sketch as the basis for his Striding Nude, Blue Dress. He added a short blue dress to the work that was unfastened all the way down the front and also placed a different model's head on the body.

"The problem was that Cherie was a struggling lawyer at the time and Uglow was a famously slow painter," Mr Bradstock said. "She couldn't spare enough time for him to complete the painting, so he used another model."

There you have it, Cherie Blair is not the only prominent person to have been captured nude though and I don’t mean paparazzi... There are probably nude photos of George Bush senior and Hilary Clinton in the Smithsonian Institute. All freshmen here at Yale and at some of the other colleges and universities involved were required to pose in the nude The pictures at first were taken to study posture. Later they were made by a researcher examining what he believed to be a relationship between body shape and intelligence..

It is not known whether the Bush and Rodham photos ever wound up at the Smithsonian. Needless to say they have never been displayed!

18 March 2009

Hawkwind - Spirit of the Age Live

Back from hospital

Thanks everyone for your kind words of support. I was discharged from hospital yesterday with a cast from my right ankle to right thigh, painkillers and a zimmer frame. Being required to spend a week in hospital came as a bit of a shock... I really thought it would be a case of a bit of physiotherapy and back t work soon - not an operation to reattach a tendon to its muscle, a cast and six weeks of immobility!

One thing for sure, I will NEVER, NEVER lose patience with anyone who has to use a Zimmer frame to get around!

Blogging will of course be light. I will do my best to get around and visit as often as I can.



15 March 2009

Message from the "Not-wife".
Regular visitors to the Poor Mouth may have noticed a lack of activity just lately. This is because poor old Jams has been in hospital having an operation to repair his quadriceps muscle. He's likely to be home in a few days so any messages of support and commiseration will no doubt be gratefully received by him if not downright lapped up. He's going to be stuck at home for a couple of months so anything that helps keep him amused will be most welcome.

09 March 2009

Dear Leader in surprise election victory

Yesterday Kim Jong-il was staring into the abyss of electoral defeat. However, in an escape that would have made Harry Houdini jealous he has been swept back into power by a grateful people. According to the Press Association the electorate gave the ruling party a ringing endorsement with 100% of the vote in a 99.98% turnout.

According to AFP turnout in Kim’s own seat, military constituency 33,3 was 100%. "all the voters of Constituency No. 333 participated in the election and voted for Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army Kim Jong-Il," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. "This is the expression of all service persons' and people's absolute support and profound trust in Kim Jong-Il,"

The election gives no indication of Kim’s likely successor – none of his three sons was nominated for a seat – but the Dear Leader can breath easy again in the knowledge that he has a mandate to force North Koreans to bend over and take another inch.

Woman's greatest liberation

According to the Independent(and plenty of other sources) The Vatican celebrated International Women’s Day by nominating what it considers to be the single greatest advance for womankind.. Unsurprisingly it isn't the Pill. It isn't suffrage or anything to do with equal opportunities - it is of course, the washing machine.

This appliance had done more for the women’s liberation movement than the contraceptive pill or working outside the home, said the the official Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano.“In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of Western women?” questioned the article. “The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine.”

The article is entitled, “The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax”, taking its name from the Washy Talky, the Electrolux bilingual-talking washing-machine launched in India seven years ago.

Personally I think that the Vatican is spot on! Not only does the washing machine bring up cassocks and vestments a treat, it gives women more time to do other things. Surely Bishop Eamonn Casey and many other priests would not have had the opportunity to create priestlets if their clandestine partners were down at the stream with a rock and some lye....

08 March 2009

General election takes place in the world's one true democracy

The vote has now been cast, the polls are closed and North Korea's version of John Snow is almost certainly set to move his swingometer. Political pundits are poised to pick up the results. It is election time in the DPRK.

Needless to say there is one candidate per seat so the result it a foregone conclusion. That said The nation truly has a one man, one vote system and the one man of course is the Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il.

The only real item of interest in what is of course a rubber stamp exercise is whether The Dear Leader's third son Kin Jong-Un actually appears on the ballot. This may confirm rumours that he is favoured to succeed his father.

According to ITAR-Tass (not exactly a first choice news source for the Poor Mouth) thousands of residents of the capital Pyongyang dressed in festived clothes stood in lines to cast their vote (turn out last time was reportedly 99.9%.... hmmm).

In theory, each voter has the right to express his or her discontent with the candidacy of a would-be representative and cross out the name in the ballot, but no such cases are known in practice here.North Korean mass media claim that this is the most democratic form of a direct voting by secret ballot.

At the end of the voting procedure, each voter is expected to stop by the portraits of the country's leader Kim Jong Il and his father Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Korean socialist state, and to make several bows to them.

I'm sure the Korean Friendship Association and its Juche brown nosers like Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les y Pérez and Dermot (a sterling fellow and in no way a f**kwit) are probably enraptured.... Hiho

The Good Soldier Cushing - Part II

It’s about time I continued the Red Cushing sage. This is taken from his autobiography “Soldier for Hire”

After capture and several days of marching, Cushing and his comrades were herded into rails trucks and taken to Stalag VIII(b) near Lamsdorf. In Silesia (now called Lambinowice). Not being an officer he was required to work so after fumigation and shaving and looking, as he put it, like a snooker ball he was drafted into a stone quarrying party.

Needless to say he found the food and lodgings rather below par and being a free spirit, he decided to escape. Obviously his attempts were unsuccessful or he wouldn’t have ended up in Sachsenhausen and got into a scrape with Yakov Stalin! During his third and final attempt he made it as far as the Carpathian Mountains. There he encountered a farm dog “about the size of the Hound of the Baskervilles”. To escape he tried to scale a high fence but his battle blouse got caught on a pointed picket post. It was in that ignominious position that he was recaptured. He was awarded 28 days solitary confinement for his troubles.

He was then sent to work in a coal mine where he was assigned as an assistant to a humourless but even tempered worker called Willi. Cushing found this mix a perfect opportunity for mischief.

One day Willi was engaged in making modification to roof supports. He called down to Cushing in guttural English “Thomas, the saw you will give Ja?”After weighing the request Cushing provided a hammer.

“Nein, Nein Thomas. The saw, Die Sage Verstehst?” Cushing responded “Ja ich verstehe” going through the motions of a man sawing, then promptly handed Willi some wood.Willi, with the patience of a saint, stopped his work and came down to show him what he wanted.

Cushing would do this time and time again. When Willi wanted nails, he would get a hammer and so on. The effect was that Willi spent more time explaining things to Red than actually doing any work.

Believing Red to be an utter idiot, Willi would spend a lot of time regaling him with the latest Nazi propaganda, particularly tales of hardship and starvation in England.. Nothing Red said in answer would change his view (and why would it when the Reich was on a roll at that time). Tiring of the Crapology, as he called it, Red found the perfect way of putting one over him, proving in the process that Britain’s larder was not quite as empty as it was portrayed.. He persuaded the other prisoners to let him have a complete Red Cross parcel.

When eating a lunch of ersatz coffee and black bread with a little Speck, Willi demanded “Thomas, this war how long it last, eh?

“Oh probably another 10 or 11 years Willi”

“Nein, nein In England everybody hungry is.. Doctor Goebbels says”

“Up Dr Goebbels lulu, have a look at this little lot” At this point he opened the parcel to display a treasure trove of goodies, including tea, sugar cocoa (and of course lots of span and bully beef).“One parcel a week Willi for every British POW in Europe”

Red’s trick had the desired result: Willi and the other workers realised that their propaganda was an exaggeration and was to be taken not with a pinch of salt but with a whole mine’s worth.

07 March 2009

James Ravilious - Genius

I have just watched a tv programme on a photographer I had not heard of before but whose work was stunning.

For over 20 years James Ravilious photographed rural life in North Devon, particularly that of the small holder. Go to these two sites and see his work for yourelf

James Ravilious

The Beaford Centre

A Saturday evening punishment post

My knee still hurts like hell over a week on. I was planning a cerebral post today (or at least the next installment of the Red Cushing saga at long last!) but I spent the afternoon in bed instead.

Instead of Red Cushing I thought both of my readers would benefit from a few videos fron 1980/91 that showcase the barrel scrapings of disco-pop (until Stock, Aitken and Waterman started their own brand of turd polishing in the late 80s that is)

Aneka - Japanese Boy

Kelly Marie - It Feels Like I'm In Love (with a little bit of Ottawan's D.I.S.C.O. thrown in for added agony)

Liquid Gold - Dance Yourself Dizzy

Aneka, reverted to being Mary Sandeman and is a folk singer. as she was before her brief pop caereer. Firghteningly Japanese Boy reached number 1 in the UK. Nobody got poor underestimating public taste I suppose (to paraphrase HL Mencken)

Photo Hunt - Space

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is Space. Since I live in a house that is cramped thanks to our being pack-rats and I don't have any decent shots of teh night sky, here's the Chase in Dagenham. It is a very pleasant, natural space near where I live.

For information: a Chase is an old English word for a private, unenclosed game preserve. At some stage it must have been a hunting gfround for the owners of the nearby Bretons Manor.

06 March 2009

Music for the cloth-eared generation and why a musical ear means luck in love.

Technological changes affect musical tastes according to the Telegraph: the piano allowed composers greater freedom to change volume within a piece of work, while the four-minute limit of the early phonograph player setting the standard for the length of the modern pop song. Those of us raised in the vinyl era prefer the sound you get from an LP or a single to later musical formats.

Now it seems that the flatter, tinny, sound associated with digital music is being chosen by some record producers as young listeners no longer appreciate high fidelity recordings.

Jonathan Berger, Professor of Music at Stanford University, California, has conducted an eight-year study in which students have rated various formats playing the same song. He found that, over time, there was a rise in preference for MP3 players and that there was no perception of inferior quality. Professor Berger said that the phenomenon was similar to the continued preference of some for music from vinyl records heard through a gramophone. "Some people prefer that needle noise – the noise of little dust particles that create noise in the grooves. I think there's a sense of warmth and comfort in that.

Rennie Pilgrem, a dance music producer, said he mixed his tracks while listening to them through iPod headphones to cater to the less refined tastes of today's youth. "To my ears iPods are not even as good quality as cassette tape," he said. "But once someone gets used to that sound then they feel comfortable with it."

Stephen Street, who has produced records for Blur, the Cranberries and Kaiser Chiefs, said the change had led to pressure to add volume at the expense of quality. "What you are hearing is that everything is being squared off and is losing that level of depth and clarity," he said. "I'd hate to think that anything I'd slaved over in the studio is only going to be listened to on a bloody iPod."

Personally I find the iPod to be very convenient way to listen to my music collection. I have getting on for 2,000 albums so a nice, big iPod means I can have a all the songs I still listen to in one place. The quality isn’t that great but a decent set of headphones (I prefer Ultimate Ears Super Fi5 pro phones)) does sound quality. The headphones that come with MP3 players are, quite frankly, crap. Still there’s nothing like dusting off an LP and putting it on the turntable.

Meanwhile, having a trained ear can be an advantage in a romantic relationship. According to a study by North Western University researchers (Again reported in the Telegraph).

Anyone searching for a lover with that elusive quality of being a "good listener" should pick someone who has gone through musical tuition, said the results of the study. Apparently the the ability that allows them to pick out a tune also means they can pick out 'emotion' in the human voice better than most. Lead researcher Dana Strait said: "Quickly and accurately identifying emotion in sound is a skill that translates across all areas, whether in the classroom, boardroom or bedroom."

For the test, the 30 volunteers were strapped to electrodes to measure the reaction of their brainstems. Wearing headphones they were asked to watch a nature film in a foreign language with subtitles in order to keep various senses occupied. Then a tiny blast of a baby's cry, lasting for a fraction of a second, was played through the headphones while their brainstem reaction was monitored. It found the brains of those with musical training locked on to the complex parts of the sound which contain the emotion.

Well there you have it. I wish I wasn't tone deaf (sighs)


This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

05 March 2009

Cricket - It’s as English as Mussels and Chips!

I will happily admit that when it comes to cricket I don’t just fail “dear” Norman Tebbit’s cricket test, I don’t even get close to the exam room. Cricket bores me stiff. What other sport can have five day matches and still produce a draw!

I was therefore amused to see a BBC article about academic research claims cricket is not English, but was imported by immigrants from northern Belgium. A poem thought to have been written in 1533 suggests that the game originates from Flanders.

A cricket

The first definitive references to the game appeared in England in the 1600s, when fines were handed out for those missing church to play. The first cricket club was formed in Hambledon in the 1760s and the world-famous Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was founded in 1787.

But German academic Heiner Gillmeister and his Australian colleague, Paul Campbell of the Australian National University. say the discovery proves that cricket is anything but English. The poem, The Image of Ipocrisie, attributed to the English poet John Skelton, refers to Flemish weavers who settled in southern and eastern England.

They are described as "kings of crekettes"; "wickettes" are mentioned too. It is thought the weavers brought the game to England and played it close to where they looked after their sheep, using shepherd's crooks as bats.

Women cricketers in Iran

Mr Campbell's research was based on earlier investigations by Mr Gillmeister, a linguist from the University of Bonn. "There is no way to relate the term to any existing English word," he told the BBC. "I was brought up with Flemish children and I know the language well. I immediately thought of the Flemish phrase 'met de krik ketsen' which means to 'chase a ball with a curved stick'."

In response, cricket historian David Frith said: "It is hard to deny that this is a breakthrough. This discovery points to an addition to the great history of cricket. It's exciting we haven't yet written the final word on it." He added: "It does make you wonder why Belgium isn't playing test cricket though, doesn't it?"

Well Mr Firth perhaps the reason is because they have better things to do in life (like putting mayo on chips and brewing superb beer) than bother with cricket! Actually there is a Belgian Cricket Federation. Click here for all you need to know about the game in Belgium.

Seriously I don’t really get that worked up about cricket. If people enjoy it then who am I to stop them. It is interesting to see that cricket has reached Iran. In January the Iranian national side beat China by 307 runs. Meanwhile the first women’s tournament took place last October. Click here for more information about the game in Iran

Americans in the SS

This am amended repost of something I wrote in June 2006 when the Poor Mouth was but a babe in arms and my posts were a lot more serious.

Compared with what is available on the British Free Corps (BFC) there is a dearth of information on the Americans who fought for Germany in WWII. Frustrating as this is, what little there is out there is still quite interesting

There is no reliable estimate of the number of Americans who fought for the Reich. Marcus Wendel’s Axis History Factbook notes that in 1940 there were five US citizens in the Waffen SS in May 1940 and at least eight Americans died in its service during the war. Only two Americans are named Martin Monti and Peter Delaney. Both served in the journalism unitSS Standarte Kurt Eggers and Delaney appears to have been killed in 1945.

There is more information about Martin Monti . A lieutenant in the USAAF, Monti was also a hard line catholic who viewed the Reich as the bastion against communism. In 1944 he deserted his unit in India and made his way to Italy where he was able to take an F5 (a reconnaissance version of the P38 Lightning fighter) and fly it to Milan which was still in Axis hands. He ultimately gained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the Kurt Eggers unit and broadcast on Italian fascist radio.

After the war Monti was initially tried only for theft of the aircraft and after a sentence of hard labour he was able to rejoin the newly formed USAF, finally leaving 1948. It was only after this that he was arrested and convicted for treason. Sentenced to 25 years in prison he was paroled in 1960.

A post on a militaria forum lists 7 American citizens who gained officer rank in the SS

Hstuf (Captain). Josef Awender, a medical doctor in the “Frundsberg” born in Philadelphia in 1913,
Ustuf (2nd Lieutenant). Robert Beimes, a signal officer in the “Hitler Jugend” born in San Francisco in 1919, whose father was a translator in the SD,
Ustuf. Dr. Hans Eckert, born in Buffalo, NY in 1917 and assigned to the SS hospital at Dachau in November 1944,
Ostubaf (Lt Colonel) . Viktor Fehsenfeld, born in Elk Rapids, Michigan in 1894 and an administrative officer in the SS-WVHA,
Hstuf. Franz Stark, born in St. Louis in 1901 and assigned to the SD,
Hstuf. Eldon Walli, born in New York City in 1913 in the SS-Kriegsberichter
Abteilung (war reporters)
Hstuf. Paul Winckler-Theede, born in New York City in 1912 and who was a military judge in the “Das Reich” division.

It is claimed that their records are available in the Berlin Document Centre. Whether this is true or not I have no idea. There is no indication whether these had renounced their citizenship before joining the SS or if they were tried after the war. Perhaps these men were born in the US but returned the Germany when young.

There are rumours of an American SS unit called either the American Free Corps or the George Washington Brigade. The origins of this rumour surely comes from Kurt Vonnegut - In Slaughterhouse Five the American traitor Howard Campbell tries to recruit for the George Washington Brigade (See also Mother Night - Cambpell is the main character of this novel). In reality there is no evidence whatsoever the Germans attempted to recruit American POWs for a waffen SS unit

It is a shame that little research has been done on this subject. Perhaps a historian will take it up at some stage. There is rather more information on the Americans who broadcast for Germany and Japan during WWII and I will probably talk about them at a later date

The Fascist Cat's Paw

Following on from my previous post, the BBC has another curious story culled from recently declassified files

This story is about Gunner Ralph Dawson, previously an antique dealer, who delighted in Nazi victories and did not want Britain to win the war. However, rather than put him in jail the army sent him to the front in the hope he might expose other fascist sympathisers.

Dawson had joined the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1939 when one of his customers turned out to be the group's secretary Lady Pearson. In 1940 he signed up for the army and was stationed in Kent but was soon found distributing far right magazine Action among fellow soldiers.

A Home Office note said: "He told another bombardier that he was a leading member of an organisation whose object was the destruction by revolution of the system at present in force in this country."Dawson also, according to this bombardier, said it would be unfortunate if Britain were to win the war outright."

He was sent to Dunkirk in the hope he might incriminate himself and others but that plan failed and he was later jailed. After the war Dawson travelled around the country performing as an actor using the name Gerald Murrell. The authorities monitored him until as late as 1970.

Given his views I am surprised he even chose to join the army. That said he was not alone. Other former BUF members covered themselves in "glory" during WWII by joining the Britisches Freikorps (BFC), the British SS Unit (not that it was in any way effective as a fighting unit or a propaganda tool), or broadcasting on German radio. One former member (quite a senior member too), John Henry Owen Brown, did show that a leopard can change his spots. He did his utmost to sabotage recruitment for the BFC and was decorated after the war.

JHO "Busty" Brown is an interesting character and his wikipedia entry does not do his story justice (It also leaves out a few warts as well). I must dig out my copy of his wartime memoirs In Durance Vile and a couple of books written by Adrian Weale: Renegades-Hitler's Englishmen (the definitive history of the BFC) and Patriot Traitors (A comparative history of John Amery and Sir Roger Casement). I feel a series of posts coming on... Once I get my finger out and finish off the Red Cushing series

04 March 2009

Portuguese spy prevented from betraying Operation Torch

While a remarkable Spaniard, Juan Pujol Garcia (aka GARBO) performed an immeasurable service to the allies during WWII, a Portuguese citizen nearly thwarted an important allied mission

According to the Times an MI5 file just released by the National Archives provides information on Gastao de Freitas Ferraz, a Portuguese wireless operator who was being paid by German intelligence to send coded messages about convoys to U-boat commanders. He was removed from his vessel to prevent him from betraying the position of a huge convoy bound for North Africa.

The convoy in question was the Operation Torch invasion fleet. Operation Torch was an American/British invasion of Vichy-held territory with the ultimate aim of driving Axis forces out of North Africa.

Ferraz had been transmitting encrypted messages from his fishing boat, Gil Eannes, in the Atlantic. But unknown to the Germans, the messages were being intercepted and deciphered at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire. On August 9, 1942, MI5 was sent a “most secret” letter that referred to the “alleged unneutral behaviour” of a certain Portuguese wireless operator. Gil Eannes, a former Portuguese warship, was part of a large fleet authorised to operate in the Atlantic because of Portugal's neutrality.

Sir David Petrie, the director-general of MI5, wrote to the Foreign Office on October 24: “There is no possible room for doubt that de Freitas is a German agent.” MI5 asked for Gil Eannes to be intercepted at sea: “You will, of course, appreciate that if any action is to be taken, it must be taken forthwith.”

The Foreign Office agreed, and the Admiralty sent out a secret signal to all relevant commands: “If the vessel is sighted West of 11 degrees West, she should be ordered not to use W/T, de Freitas [Ferraz] should be removed and in order to ensure that no further use of W/T is made, an armed guard should be put on board.”

The warship HMS Duke of York duly intercepted Gil Eannes and Ferraz was detained and taken to Gibraltar. He was transferred to MI5's interrogation centre at Camp 020 in West London, where he confessed. After the war he was deported to Portugal.

Another fascinating snippet pf history, I am sure that there are still a lot of similar tales in the archives awaiting the light of day.

BNP screws up Euro Election poster

Nick Griffin and his rabble have chosen "Battle for Britain" as its European Election slogan. The election poster shows a nice picture of a Spitfire.

All nostalgic stuff , designed to link the BNP to the RAF’s finest hour – But RAF history experts have identified the iconic plane used as belonging 303 “Kościuszko” Squadron, one of a number of RAF squadrons flown by Polish pilots.

BNP party chiefs defended their use of the image and insisted they knew all about the background (Pah and I fathered every Sugababe). However, John Hemming, MP for Yardley, Birmingham, noted: "The BNP... have a policy to send Polish people back to Poland – yet they are fronting their latest campaign using this plane.... It's obvious they just picked an image at random and they are really clutching at straws if they say this was deliberate."

(Another image of the plane used by the BNP- note the Polish symbol close to the propeller)

Simon Darby, spokesperson for the British National Party, said: "It's not like the BNP are against Polish people as a nation. We are against Polish people coming over here and undercutting British workers.”

303 sqn pilots - I suppose Darby would have been against these guys too

I’m sure that the BNP would have opposed the employment of the likes of Zdzisław Krasnodębski and Witold Urbanowicz (who commanded 303Sqn during the Battle of Britain) – I’m sure they were undercutting local workers too.

Oh and here’s another Eastern European worker who I am sure the BNP would love to deport too. He can be found in the War Grave at Hornchurch Cemetery, hear St Andrew’s Church

Flight Sergeant Konvalina was based at RAF Hornchurch at the time of his death. He served with 313Sqn which was one of four Czech squadrons within the RAF during WWII.

303 Sqn was just one of a number of Polish squadrons serving in the RAF during WWII. The other squadrons were:

300 (Masovian), 301 (Pomeranian), 302 (Poznan), 304 (Silesian), 305 (Wielpolska), 306 (Torun), 307 (Lwow), 308 (Krakow), 309 (Ziema Czerwienska), 315 (Deblin), 316 (Warsaw), 317 (Wilno), 318 (Danzig),

Click here for brief histories. Wikipedia has more detailed information on each of these squadrons, It goes without saying that their squadron badges take pride of place on the floor of RAF St Clement Danes