Thursday 26 November 2009

Science Policy Debate

"Politicians debate 'The S-Word'" was as interesting as I'd hoped, with surprising level of agreement that UK science should be non-party-political, though there were plenty of disagreement around the fringes, especially over libel cases and the independence & free-speech of scientific advisors

It's good to see the media taking an interest.

From the meeting agenda, the speakers were:

  • Lord Drayson, Minister for Science & Innovation
  • Adam Afriyie MP, Conservative Party Shadow Minister
  • Dr Evan Harris MP, Liberal Democrat Party Shadow Minister
They had several follow-up debates in London, which were well-reported.

Monday 24 August 2009

weekend in London around 7-Aug-2009

This has turned out to be a story of buses: it seemed a good idea in the heat to make even more use of them than I normally do... [Behind that thought is the ease of use, due to good organisation of bus stops, information and cheap fares via Oyster.]

Usually in August, central London non-tourist spots are quiet as folk are away on holiday. On the other hand this weekend the top pubs are boosted by GBBF attendees.

On Friday afternoon bus 87 took me from the Strand to Tate Britain for exhibs Eva Rothschild & Classified Contemporary Art

ER: abstract shapes made from struts, in the central hall of TB - the sort of thing which needs an explanatory notice, if one can be bothered to find it and read it - I couldn't.

CCA: a mix of second-rank items of post-War art, concentrating on the shock items of the YBA - OK if new to you but a bit of a yawn otherwise.

Then I hopped on bus 88 from the back of TB towards Political Westminster to revisit 6 years on the characterful pubs there, on the basis they should be quiet at this time of year. All seemed well with the top-quality pubs and I tried a new one for me: the Adam & Eve, another delightful old-style pub.

Bus 15 then took me from Parliament Sq to St Pauls, where the Pizza Express was quiet (which wouldn't have been true out of holiday season) and then bus 11 took me further east for the historic Bell in Bush Lane which had more visitors than workers (normally it would be heaving with post-work Suits).

Bus 15 then took me back west for the Edgar Wallace, which was surprisingly quiet (nearby the Devereux Arms was packed and out of interesting beers - normally these two are similarly busy).


Started with a bus 9 ride to Piccadilly for the Fleming Collection's exhib of Sir Muirhead Bone, the noted draughtsman, patron and war artist. Yet another fine exhib at this low-profile gallery.

At the back of the Royal Academy (reusing some very elegant classical spaces) the new Haunch of Venison gallery had various exhibs on - a mixed bag of modern art. The best item was on the elegant stairs - cute figures something like the Adipoise critters recently in Dr Who.

Hopped on bus 38 to the Cartoon Museum for their Rowland Emett exhibition: his drawings and some of his working contraptions - wonderful stuff! Happy childhood memories. The work for the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film features strongly (a film I hated as it has little in common with the much-loved book).

Bus 8 along High Holborn brought me to Holborn Circus too early, so I did a bit of exploring aroung Hatton Garden, including the characterful Bleeding Heart Yard. (There's supposed to be a way through to Ely Place and that now seems to be part of the posh restaurant in the far corner of the Yard of the same name.)

The historic Ye Olde Mitre opened early, about 11:55. As the GBBF weekend is the only weekend it opens, I was keen to make the effort to see if new owners Fullers have changed it. Answer: no, in fact it's even better, with a week-long Scottish beerfest on.

In the evening I made the 30-min Northern Line journey to Hampstead - my first proper trip to North London. The Old Hampstead Village guided walk was fascinating, taking place around the crest of the hill which is the core of Hampstead: a maze of lanes and paths, all at different slopes. Some classic pubs too: The Holly Bush (near the converted hospital where Sporty & Scary Spice live) and Ye Olde White Bear. Lots of history and famous people. The guide is the author of The History of London before if got burned down which I'd loved to have seen at the Jermyn Street Theatre last year.

Snippet from the walk: 'Judges Walk', at the top, beside the Heath, records where the law courts were held during the Great Plague.


Bus to Bank, DLR to Olympics site and the nearby Three Mills Locks once again, to see the progress. The organisation of workers - transport and entry - is thoroughly organised now, with a huge base by Pudding Mill Lane station. The huge new Locks are in service, giving access for huge barges.

DLR to Tower Gateway, bus RV1 to Tate Modern. Exhibs: Per Kirkeby and Futurism and Stutter. Again, nothing that really stands out. I had high hopes of the Futurism one and it seemed to cover all the basics but without any really stunning items.

Along Bankside to the Oxo Gallery: 30Y, 30 Artists: pretty much what it says, for a London group of printmakers.

I popped in to the Duchess Theatre to book for Endgame - 1st preview Fri 18th Sep - in what was supposed to be Richard Briers last stage production. Since then, he pulled out and the production was put off until October (they re-booked me accordingly).

I tried again to book the Comedy Theatre for Prick Up Your Ears on Sat 19th Sep but again it and its sister theatre The Duke of York's weren't open. The latter used to have extended box office hours and readily book for any production within the Ambassadors group, but on my last trip they refused to take my booking.

To the NG for Corot to Monet - French Landscapes under the influence of Constable & co. Many very fine paintings and showing the development history very well.

On the Fourth Plinth the current One & Other was a Master of Wine lecturing and doing Q&A - I think a lot of professions have used the platform in such ways.

USA double standards

The Times today: Lockerbie release could topple Scottish government

I like this follow-up comment, posted there:

    John Andersen wrote:

    Former Lt.William Calley recently apologized in Atlanta for his murder of 21 innocent men, women and children in My Lai. 500 were murdered in total. Only Calley was found guilty. He only served 3 years of house arrest. Americans have very flexible values when it's Americans doing the killing rather than when it's Americans being killed. Some lives, it seems, are more equal than others.

    Remind me, how many years of house arrest did al-Megrahi serve?
    August 24, 2009 12:36 PM BST

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Early Bank Holiday Weekend 2009 in London

As a change from the usual Friday evening theatre trip, I did the rounds of some favourite City pubs, just as the post-work rush subsided.

The Bell in Bush Lane, The Tipperary in Fleet Street, The Devereux Arms and The Edgar Wallace off The Strand.

On Saturday morning I was off to Little Venice (via bus 15), mainly to get the programme for Canalways Cavalcade 2009. There were lots of colourful boats there already and stalls were setting up. Bought some exotic fudges originating from Deeping St Mary.

After a lunch break (my usual pairing of The Harp and Porters), I nipped over to see the eight Bond cars on display to the crowds at BFI Southbank. Warwick Davis was being interviewed and there were some Effects blokes chatting to people.

Having waited since I booked on 8-Nov, at last I was off to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for Beckett's Waiting for Godot, with Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart - the third Preview prior to First Night on Tuesday. Very warm and funny - a delight (not always the case - some productions are very sombre). Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup were also moving. The set was of a derelict theatre and all four characters were hinted as having theatrical backgrounds, which really made sense.

In the evening, to the National Theatre for J.B. Priestley's Time & the Conways (booked 13-nov), which was also a Preview. Sadly disappointing, one of those plays where there's no real plot or emotional resolution - it just tapers off. Director Rupert Goold did tack on a strange audio-visual display but to no apparent purpose. It's about a family coming to terms with its reducing circumstances between 1919 and 1938 and features the trick of Act 2 (1938) being in the middle of the continuous action in 1919 of Acts 1 & 3. One does learn a lot about the characters but never sypmathises or cares.

Sunday started with bus 381 from Waterloo and then a long walk around Rotherhithe, including revisiting the Brunel Museum, followed by a quick trip to check progress on the Cutty Sark in Greenwich - still covered.

I chose GBK (Maiden Lane) for a quick pre-theatre bite - mistake! Very slow, very busy. What normally takes 5-10 mins took 35.

To Wyndhams Theatre for Madame de Sade, starring Judi Dench and Rosamund Pike (booked 7-Dec). A fascinating and engrossing play about the women in the Marquis' life and how they change as events unfold. The core is that Madame's mother can't understand why she's so supportive of her husband, come what may.

BH Monday started with my now-traditional trip to Kew Gardens (via Hammersmith bus station), this time including the tree-top walkway. I still have more to explore on another occasion - there's so much to see. [The Queen did the official 250th anniversary thing the next day.]

Another pair of buses took me back to the Canalways Cavalcade (beer, burger and fudge!). The dull grey and increasingly wet weather wasn't dampening the festivities.

Sunday 26 April 2009

train delayed - taxi involved!

(a new one on me, by way of reasons for train delays...)

My 12:15 train from Leicester was delay 100 minutes due to a 'police incident' at Birmingham (which turned out to be as below).

A spare train was parked up after about 30 mins while announcements explained the train crew were on their way from Birmingham by taxi.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Gov borrowing

The Chancellor announced in his Budget today:
  • Public borrowing to increase to £175bn this year
  • Borrowing levels to rise by £173bn, £140bn, £118bn and £97bn in years after
Boggling quantities and troubling thinking about the taxation (or spending cuts) needed to replay this lot.

(BBC at-a-glance)

Tuesday 21 April 2009

"Let's not get too highbrow"

the top journalistic question du jour?

Monday 20 April 2009

BBC/WBD book list

This list is doing the round of blogs/Facebook, having originated with the BBC/World Book Day. I don't think much of it - so many great items omitted, and there are duplicates (poor editing) and there's too much bias towards recent stuff (always difficult to judge its classic-ness)
[r] - read
[s] - seen (TV/film/play)
[x] - avoiding (I have good reason to think I'll hate it)

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen [x]
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien [s]
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte [x]
4. The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling [s]
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee [s]
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte [x]
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell [r]
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman [s]
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens [s]
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare [x]
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier [s]
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot [x]
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell [s]
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald [s]
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens [s]
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy [x]
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams [r] [s]
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll [r] [s]
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame [r] [s]
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens [s]
33. Chronicles of Narnia [r] [s]
34. Emma - Jane Austen [x]
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen [x]
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis [r] [s]
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres [x]
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne [r] [s]
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell [r] [s]
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown [s]
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins [r] [s]
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding [r]
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan [s]
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert [s]
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons [s]
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen [x]
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley [r]
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck [x]
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov [s]
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold [x]
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas [s]
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac [x]
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding [s]
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie [x]
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville [x]
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens [r] [s]
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker [s]
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson [r] [s]
75. Ulysses - James Joyce [x]
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath [x]
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome [r]
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens [r] [s]
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker [x]
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [r] [s]
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery [r]
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams [r] [s]
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas [s]
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare [x]
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday 16 April 2009

Gt St Marys bells being craned out

I'd read that the bells were to be replaced but by the double chance of being on the way to the Arts Theatre at the right time and having my camera with me, I took these...

Pics - stills & movies

Great St Mary’s is ringing in the changes

Alumni article and follow-up about the new bells

Tuesday 17 March 2009

More science please

Fascinating report from a recent scientific and rational conference trying to cut through the fog of junk science around 'global warming'.

If only the public debate could be as rational and fact-based, instead of suppressing/ignoring facts which disagree with the 'accepted' view.

Olympics-2012 progress

Movies of the progress at the site of the main stadium of the Olympics 2012

Wednesday 28 January 2009

dodgy science?

... Just one example of the claims and counter-claims over the science of the global warming business.

As a bit of background, here are some relevant links which I've previously posted to Facebook. The common factor is the desire to be more scientifically balanced, more even-handedly analytical and not giving in to bullying orthodoxy: there's too much "anyone who disagrees with me is a bad scientist".

Monday 5 January 2009

Kew 250 years

Kew celebrates 250 years I suspect I'll visit Kew for a 3rd year running this May - there's so much to see and enjoy.

Terror police

yet another case of appalling behaviour by police, spuriously citing 'anti-terror': and worst of all, they're unrepentant, as with so many recent abuses, so this sort of excess/abuse will continue.